Just one week remains before the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s eagerly anticipated “Passion for Fashion” event at Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) in Eagle Butte. Scheduled for 12-6 p.m. on Saturday, March 16, this annual celebration of Cheyenne River’s young women will encourage Cheyenne River’s young women to “Remember Your Roots & Embrace Your Culture.” 


At this year’s 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.

“All of our Passion for Fashion events allow our young people to enjoy the thrill and excitement of preparing for the prom,” says Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “In that sense, it’s an important rite of passage for our kids, and we invite all generations of family members to share that experience, and support these young women. 

“We’ve always emphasized the importance of positive self-esteem, health and wellness, and standing up against bullying,” she continues. “This year, however, we’ve added something that we feel is extra special—the opportunity to connect with Lakota heritage and values, showing our kids how they can lean on our stories and our ancestors as they face life’s challenges.”

The event will begin with a luncheon at 12 p.m. In addition to trays overflowing with fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, cheese and crackers, young people also will enjoy 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 a dessert comprising baked apples and wild rice pudding. 

During the luncheon, keynote speaker Manny Iron Hawk will discuss the importance of Lakota language revitalization and preservation. Iron Hawk is principal of Lakȟótiyapi Okáȟtaŋ Wičhóičhaǧe Inc. (LOWI), the new Eagle Butte-based Lakota immersion school. It provides all instruction (including math and science) in Lakota, and teaches youth about native traditions and culture.

Next, CRYP will welcome Laura Schad to the podium. An enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Schad currently serves as the program information coordinator for Partnerships With Native Americans (PWNA).

Naomi Even-Aberle and a few volunteers from Strongheart Martial Arts Academy will teach Passion for Fashion guests some empowering self-defense moves, and then CRYP staff will invite them into the Morgan Yellowhead Gymnasium to search for the dresses, shoes, jewelry and other accessories they need for the high school prom. 

They also may enjoy an afternoon of pampering, from hairstyling and makeovers to manicures and pedicures. Nail technician Kim Borge is making the trip from Pierre to provide her professional services, which include personalizing each girl’s nails to suit her unique personality and style.

In addition, Lori High Elk, Bree Good Bear and Denise Lightning Fire will be on hand to share information about, respectively, the weekly Girls Talking Circle at Cokata Wiconi, the Sacred Heart Center in Eagle Butte, and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s Youth Diabetes Prevention program. The evening, as always, will conclude with a dynamic fashion show that allows each young woman to show off her unique style, personality and energy.

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.”

There is still time to support CRYP’s 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 videos on CRYP’s YouTube Channel!

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.