Luce Fellow Spotlight: Richard Moves Camp

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is excited to partner with the Henry Luce Foundation (Luce) for a second year of the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship. In 2020, First Nations and Luce awarded 10 $50,000 fellowships to advance and support the work of Indigenous knowledge holders and knowledge makers dedicated to creating positive community change.

In 2021, the fellowship was expanded to award $75,000 to 13 new fellows committed to preserving and sharing Indigenous knowledge with future generations.

2021 Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow: RICHARD MOVES CAMP

2021 Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow Richard Moves Camp is a fifth-generation Lakota healer, Tribal historian, and spiritual leader.

For Richard Moves Camp (Oglala Lakota), being a healer is a birthright. He is the great-great grandson of Wóptuȟ’a (Chips), the Wičháša Wakȟáŋ or “holy man” who provided Crazy Horse with war medicines for protection.

A well-known and respected elder born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Moves Camps has tapped into five generations of his family’s healing knowledge and wisdom to strengthen Indigenous individuals, families, and communities for more than 40 years.

“My personal and professional journey has been a spiritual movement dedicated to teaching the youth that their culture is still here and that it is a medicine and nothing to be ashamed of,” shares the mental health professional who merges both traditional Tribal and western modes of healing and wellness.

Moves Camp “doctors” critically ill patients throughout the year, hosts an annual Sun Dance, conducts Inipi−a sacred Lakota purification ceremony in a sweat lodge, and leads workshops and lectures that amplify Lakota practices, voices, experiences, and histories.

He was nominated for the Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellowship by his colleague and friend Peter Bratt, who has worked with Moves Camp for more than 25 years. Bratt nominated Moves Camp for the fellowship so that the Lakota healer can “accelerate and formalize” his traditional teachings. “He is a gift to youth and young adults living in Native and non-Native communities,” writes Bratt in his nomination statement.

A warrior for improving mental health

The Lakota healer earned a master’s degree in mental health counseling, with an emphasis in behavioral health from Sinte Gleska University (SGU). He says his life’s mission is to strengthen and empower future generations by reinforcing cultural identity and improving the self-esteem and self-efficacy of Native people at high risk of suicide, violence, and addiction.

Moves Camp provides counseling and cultural consultation throughout Indian Country in both urban and rural settings. He was a key contributor to the Wakanyeja Pawicayapi (“Children First”) organization and co-authored a book on Lakota Healing with fellow spiritual leader Richard Two Dogs.

What’s more, the Lakota elder has served as a counselor at the Crazy Horse School in Wanblee, South Dakota, and was a founding member of the Lakota Waldorf School.

Richard Moves Camp and his grandchildren.

Most recently, he began teaching at SGU and lectures on Lakota history, culture, and traditions. During his tenure, Moves Camp hopes to help the Tribal college launch a master’s degree program in mental health. He plans to write curriculum to share with students both in-person and online, and record videos to share with Native organizations and Tribes in other communities.

Moves Camp has played many important roles in the Lakota community. He has worked as a social worker, suicide prevention specialist, and police officer. But he says his most honored role has been as a father of six children and a grandfather of seven.

“People call me ‘grandpa’ and ‘uncle’ in our community. I feel very good about the role I play among our people,” says the accomplished Luce fellow.

How the Luce Fellowship supports his mission

In July 2021, Richard Moves Camp helped lead prayers, ceremonies, and songs welcoming nine Sicangu Lakota children home after 140 years.

Moves Camp has rented an office on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to provide mental health counseling to both individuals and families. He will also develop a mental-health tool kit for Lakota youth and young adults based on Lakota philosophy. The tool kits will include a list of people and organizations to contact during a mental health crisis.

Additionally, a “train-the-trainer” program is in the works. “It will empower our youth and train them to do this important healing work in the future,” he explains. Already, the Lakota healer has guided and trained 16 young people to carry on important rituals, such as talking circles, and to facilitate community healing ceremonies forced to go underground when they were outlawed by the federal government, including Wiping of the Tears and traditional womanhood and manhood ceremonies.

Last year, Moves Camp led the widely publicized, solemn ceremony for nine Sicangu Lakota children who died at the notorious Carlisle Indian Industrial School and whose remains were finally returned to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe after more than 140 years.

With much gratitude

Moves Camp is grateful to First Nations for selecting him as a Luce Indigenous Knowledge Fellow. It has allowed this spiritual Lakota leader to continue the traditional healing work passed down to him by five generations of his family.

He hopes this invaluable fellowship program will continue long into the future. “There are many, many more people out there doing great work in their communities. This fellowship has been a great source of support. I want to encourage First Nations and Luce to continue this fellowship program and the great work they are doing.”