The Cheyenne River Youth Project has announced that  68 young Lakota women attended its annual Passion for Fashion event on Saturday, Mar. 16. An additional 21 teens scheduled post-event appointments so they could find the dresses, shoes and accessories they need for their high-school prom, and CRYP staff will continue to accept appointments until the end of this month.

At this year’s Passion for Fashion, CRYP encouraged the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation’s young women to “Remember Your Roots & Embrace Your Culture.” Throughout the day, the teens had the opportunity to explore Lakota star knowledge, traditional Lakota stories, and motivational Lakota words and sayings.

The event, and the celebration of Lakota culture, began with a luncheon at 12 p.m. Guests enjoyed a main course of wahonpi, a traditional stew incorporating bison, prairie turnips and wild potatoes; miniature servings of frybread with the thick berry sauce called wojapi; and for dessert, special cakes with a “seven council fires” motif. 

Then came the keynote speakers: Laura Schad, programs information coordinator for Partnerships With Native Americans (PWNA); and Manny Iron Hawk, principal of Lakȟótiyapi Okáȟtaŋ Wičhóičhaǧe Inc. (LOWI), the new Eagle Butte-based Lakota immersion school. Both are enrolled members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

“Laura and Manny were wonderful additions to our Passion for Fashion event, particularly with this year’s theme,” says Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “Our young women learned that they can do great things right here on Cheyenne River, like Manny with his language revitalization and preservation efforts. They also learned that they can go elsewhere, like Laura, yet still have a career that has an impact on—and lifts up—their home community.”

As always, Passion for Fashion guests were able to find the perfect dress and shoes for the prom. They enjoyed an afternoon of pampering, from hair styling to makeovers, and they walked the CRYP runway to commemorate this special occasion with friends and family members. And at the end of the evening, each young lady received a swag bag full of makeup, hair products and jewelry to help them get ready for the big day.

“As she was leaving, one girl said, ‘That was so much fun!’” remembers Meghan Tompkins, CRYP’s deputy director. “That’s a big deal, coming from a teenager. We were thrilled to hear it.”

“And, an 18-year-old guest told us that she liked seeing last year’s Passion for Fashion video,” says Jerica Widow, CRYP’s youth programs director, “as well as seeing the Lakota words and phrases decorating the walls at Cokata Wiconi.”

According to Widow, the nonprofit organization also is continuing to receive warm feedback from young people who were unable to attend Passion for Fashion on Mar. 16. 

“We’ve heard from families who were stuck in Cheyenne River’s rural areas due to the severe winter weather we had in early and mid-March,” Widow says. “The mother of a 16-year-old Tiospaye Topa student told us that a snow plow accidentally popped two of her tires, so they couldn’t come; she said they’re thankful for us, because her daughter could make a private appointment and still get her prom dress and goodies.”

She advises that Cheyenne River’s teens are still welcome to call her at (605) 964-8200 to schedule an appointment to pick out a dress. Young men’s formal wear also is available.

“We’re so grateful for the donors and volunteers who helped make this year’s Passion for Fashion such a resounding success, despite the challenges of South Dakota winter weather,” Widow says. “We couldn’t do this without you, and it’s such an important event for our young women. It has meaningful, lasting impact.” 

To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200 or visit 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.