Each year, to celebrate the spirit of the season and raise funds to support its massive Christmas Toy Drive, the Cheyenne River Youth Project® hosts a Winter Star Quilt Raffle. This week, the nonprofit youth organization announced that tickets are are on sale for the 2017 raffle, which runs through the end of the day on Saturday, Dec. 23; CRYP staff will announce the lucky winner on Tuesday, Dec. 26.

“This year’s quilt is a very special one,” says Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “Hand-crafted by tribal member Bonnie LeBeaux, it tells the traditional Lakota story of the Seven Sisters.”

As Garreau relates the story, long ago, two young Lakota women were out one night looking at the stars. One young woman said, “See that big beautiful star? I wish I could marry it.”

The other woman said the same about another star. Suddenly they are transported into the star world, and there, these two stars become their husbands. The wives become pregnant. They are told this star world is theirs but also warned not to dig any wild turnips.

Eventually one of them does, and as she pulls out the turnip, a hole opens in the star world. She is able to look down and see the earth, and even her own village. She becomes homesick and decides to return to earth. She braids more and more turnips to make a rope and lets herself down through the hole. But the braid doesn’t reach the earth, and she falls. The crash kills her, but her baby is born. The baby is raised by a meadowlark. Since meadowlarks speak Lakota, the baby, now named Fallen Star, grows up speaking Lakota too.

Fallen Star matures rapidly, in days rather than years. He is taller than normal, and a light emanates from him. The meadowlark grows old and takes him to a Lakota band, where he settles for awhile. Fallen Star, the protector, the bringer of light and higher consciousness, travels from one Lakota band to another, and everywhere he is recognized, expected and revered.

At one point, a band is camped Near Black Elk Peak in the Black Hills. Every day a red eagle swoops down and steals a girl-child, carries her to the mountaintop and kills her. The men try to shoot the red eagle but fail. They pray for Fallen Star, and after seven days (and after seven girls have been killed), he arrives. He shoots the eagle and places the spirits of the seven girls in the sky as a constellation — the Pleiades, and in Lakota, wičhíŋčala šakówiŋ — Seven Little Girls.

“We’re honored to share this special Lakota story through traditional Lakota art,” Garreau says. “And we want our supporters to know that all funds raised through raffle ticket sales will benefit our Christmas Toy Drive, which is one of our longest-running and most important programs. We’ll be serving more than 1,500 children ages 4 to 18 in 20-plus communities this year, which is an enormous undertaking.”

She noted that the public can assist with this important fundraiser in three ways. Supporters may buy tickets, offer to sell tickets, and help spread the word by telling family and friends and by sharing raffle details through social media..

Tickets are $1 each or $5 for a six-ticket packet. To purchase tickets, send cash, checks or money orders to: Cheyenne River Youth Project, Attn: Star Quilt, 702 4th St., P.O. Box 410, Eagle Butte, SD 57625. You also may pay online; simply click the “Donate Now” button on our home page, and select “Star Quilt” or put “Star Quilt” in the notes section when paying with a credit card. Please do not write the word “raffle” anywhere in the payment.

To sell tickets, please call (605) 964-8200 or send an email to Garreau at julie.cryp@gmail.com. She will send as many tickets as you request; they come in books of six. Once you receive your tickets, along a quilt photo and information sheet, you will be responsible for selling those tickets. All tickets need to be turned in by Dec. 23 so CRYP can conduct the drawing as planned on Dec. 26.

If you would like to support the Christmas Toy Drive this holiday season, please consider purchasing tickets in the Winter Star Quilt Raffle — and click here for detailed information regarding the many other ways you can help. Every contribution, no matter the size, will ensure that Cheyenne River’s children receive what they most richly deserve: a very merry Christmas.

To stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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.