The Cheyenne River Youth Project® has announced that 68 young Lakota women attended its annual Passion for Fashion event on Saturday, March 25. CRYP staff anticipate that another 20 to 30 teens will participate in the program this month, as the nonprofit organization is accepting individual appointments to look at dresses, shoes and accessories until Wednesday, May 3.
The highlight of this year’s Passion for Fashion was keynote speaker Cecilia FireThunder, the first woman to serve as president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. She spoke to the gathered Lakota teens about her personal journey and learning to walk in two worlds, finding the tools to function in both Lakota culture and contemporary society, taking care of themselves, and learning to say no.
“She was so honest and real with the girls,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “She spoke to them about being the leaders for the next generation, and the importance of taking care of their children and families. She also reminded them how powerful they are, advising them to always stand up for themselves, protect themselves and, most importantly, love themselves.”
FireThunder stayed for the entire event, engaging with the teens and witnessing the transformative runway show.
“She said she was wowed by how the girls turned into butterflies,” Garreau recalled.
The themes of empowerment and wellness lie beneath every Passion for Fashion event. Sacred Heart representatives also were on hand this year to talk about body consent and body sovereignty, while Sister Katherine Baltazar, a psychiatric mental health nurse with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s Indian Health Service, spoke about the devastating effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
“We always have a great time with the makeovers, hairstyling and manicures, and helping the girls look for the perfect dress, shoes and jewelry,” said Tammy Granados, CRYP’s youth programs director. “But throughout it all, we try to reinforce the same messages—believe in yourself, love yourself, value yourself as an individual with unique and important gifts to share, and please support each other as Lakota women. Part of that is learning, through the experiences of our keynote speaker, family members and other guests, but the other part is simply celebrating who you are and feeling beautiful, inside and out.”
Indeed, when the time came for the runway show, the event became a celebration of each young woman’s unique beauty and authentic self.
CRYP is still accepting donations of prom essentials, from dresses and shoes to jewelry and gift cards, to help support the young women who were unable to attend the Passion for Fashion event. The organization will make these essentials available until May 3; after that, all donations will be saved for Passion for Fashion 2018.
“We’re deeply grateful for the donors and volunteers who help make Passion for Fashion such a success year after year,” Granados said. “We can’t underestimate the importance of this experience in the lives of our young women, and we’re honored to have such steadfast support from around the country. Pilamaye… thank you.”
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The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.