CRYPhas been serving children and families on South Dakota’s remote 2.8-million-acre reservation since 1988. In the last three decades, one powerful truth has emerged: To foster healing and long-term wellness, programs must help young people strengthen the connection they have with their Lakota culture.

To that end, CRYP has unveiled an exciting theme for its 2019 Passion for Fashion event. Scheduled for 12-6 p.m. on Saturday, March 9 at Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life), this annual celebration of Cheyenne River’s young women will encourage attendees to “Remember Your Roots & Embrace Your Culture.” 

“We chose this theme because we want our young people to know that they can always turn to our heritage, our ancestors, our stories, and our Lakota values as they face different issues in their lives,” says Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “They can lean on their culture as they embrace their own identities and stories, and envision a future in which they thrive.”

When they attend Passion for Fashion, teens will have the opportunity to explore Lakota star knowledge, traditional Lakota stories, and motivational Lakota words and sayings. They also will learn other tribes’ creation stories, helping them feel a sense of connection with the rest of Indian Country.

Although the keynote speaker has not yet been announced, CRYP has invited Naomi Even-Aberle and a few volunteers from Full Circle Martial Arts Academy to teach attendees some self-defense moves. And, as always, teens will be able to get the dresses, shoes, jewelry and other accessories they need for this year’s high-school prom.

“Every year, we’re committed to giving our kids the prom experiences that all American high-schoolers should be able to enjoy,” Garreau says. “But, at its heart, this program is about so much more than this particular teen rite of passage. It’s about providing meaningful opportunities to learn from other Lakota women and bond with family members and friends of all ages, which also helps combat bullying.

“It’s also about personal empowerment through positive body image, improved self-confidence and deep connection with our Lakota culture,” she continues. “By celebrating our stories and values, and by honoring the memory of our ancestors, we know we’re helping these kids build a healthy, strong foundation that will serve them well all their lives.”

All high-school girls on the Cheyenne River reservation receive personalized invitations to Passion for Fashion. CRYP also welcomes teens from the nearby Standing Rock reservation, and from border towns such as Faith, South Dakota. Junior-high girls are welcome to attend as well, and all participants may invite family members to join them.

“For us, a successful Passion for Fashion event includes mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunties and cousins,” Garreau says. “We are commemorating a special time in these young ladies’ lives as a community, and we’re lifting them up as a community.”

This week, CRYP launched its annual Dress Drive to support Passion for Fashion: The youth project needs new and gently used formal dresses in sizes 4 to 26, especially in sizes 16 to 26. It also needs shoes in all sizes, especially in sizes 9 to 12. 

CRYP also asks for jewelry and hair accessories; makeup and bath sets; gift cards and cash donations. Staff and volunteers will take any contributed funds and make additional purchases based on need.

For details regarding how you can support CRYP’s Passion for Fashion program, click here. And to learn more about the program, check out the video on CRYP’s YouTube Channel. 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.