The Cheyenne River Youth Project® has announced that 60 young Lakota women attended its annual Passion for Fashion event on Saturday, Mar. 10. CRYP staff anticipate that another 40 to 50 teens will participate in the program prior to the 2018 prom at area high schools, bringing the total number of youth served to approximately 100.
Young women who were unable to attend Passion for Fashion may make appointments to visit the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center, where they can search for just the right dresses, shoes and accessories for this year’s prom. To schedule an appointment, call the CRYP office at (605) 964-8200.
Among the highlights of this year’s Passion for Fashion were the keynote speakers. Gina Still Smoking, a professional fashion designer from the Kul Wicasa Oyate (Lower Brule Sioux Tribe), talked with the young women about dealing with obstacles as they rise up to make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others.
Next to the podium was Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member Alli Moran, an Institute of American Indian Arts graduate who currently works as a program associate with Native Youth Leadership Alliance. She also recently started the Wakpa Waste Scholars Alliance.
“Never forget who you are or where you come from, (and) always remember to build and uplift others,” Moran advised. “When one of us succeeds, we all succeed.”
“Alli reminded our teens that they do play a powerful role, carrying our Lakota people from the very beginning and holding families together,” said Jerica Widow, CRYP’s youth programs director. “She talked about protecting their hearts, and she asked each of the teens to stand up, say her name, her Lakota name, where she comes from, and that she is an indigenous woman.”
Both speakers addressed missing and murdered indigenous women (#MMIW), a crisis among North American native peoples. Moran and CRYP staff member Floyd Braun also shared several heartfelt stories with the assembled teens.
At its heart, this year’s Passion for Fashion was an in-depth celebration of “Empowering Your Inner Lakota Wonder Woman.” And after hours of shopping for dresses, shoes and accessories—and plenty of pampering, with hair styling, makeovers and manicures—the teens definitely celebrated their own unique strength, beauty and Lakota sisterhood, which culminated in a special runway show.
“It’s really important to have confidence in yourself,” said Serena Eagle, who arrived on the catwalk in her traditional regalia. “The real meaning of beauty is just being yourself and using your own voice.”
CRYP has hosted Passion for Fashion for nearly 20 years, and it has become a beloved rite of passage on South Dakota’s Cheyenne River reservation.
“Each year, the message our girls receive is that they’re precious to us,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “We love them. They are our future leaders and culture bearers. It’s vital that we support and empower them, because they’re the future of the Lakota Nation.”
Some of the young women said they were nervous to do the runway show. By the end of the evening, however, it had become the highlight of their Passion for Fashion experience.
“You don’t have to live up to the beauty standards on social media,” one young woman reflected. “Show your talent, and the special gifts you have.”
Another noted with a smile, “I can be myself at the Cheyenne River Youth Project.”
“Passion for Fashion is about sisterhood,” Garreau observed. “In the course of one day, we see beautiful, confident young women lifting each other up and expressing their own unique selves in a positive, healthy way.”
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 the beginning of May; after that, all donations will be saved for Passion for Fashion 2018.
“We’re grateful for the donors and volunteers who helped make this year’s Passion for Fashion such a resounding success,” Granados said. “It has a lasting impact on our young people, and we’re deeply honored to have such steadfast support. We simply couldn’t do this each year without our broader CRYP community around the country, and around the world.”
For details regarding how you can support CRYP’s Passion for Fashion program, click here or contact the CRYP office at (605) 964-8200. And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@waniyetuwowapi).
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.