The Cheyenne River Youth Project® has announced that Cecilia FireThunder, the first woman to serve as president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, will be keynote speaker at this year’s eagerly anticipated Passion for Fashion. The event is scheduled for 1 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 25 at the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center in Eagle Butte.
“We’re honored to welcome Cecilia FireThunder to our community and to our 2017 Passion for Fashion event,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “This event is all about lifting up our young Lakota women, in every aspect, from supporting their wellness to strengthening the connection to their culture. Cecilia has an impressive background in native health, wellness and education, with a particular emphasis on healing. We’re very much looking forward to giving our youth this opportunity to hear her speak.”
FireThunder is a member of the Kiyaksa Tiospaye in Kyle, South Dakota. She spoke only Lakota until age 5, after which she attended Catholic boarding school. Her family took part in the Indian Relocation program when she was a child; she completed high school in California, became a nurse, founded the American Indian Free Clinic in Los Angeles, and later co-founded the American Indian Health Center in San Diego.
In 1987, FireThunder returned to Kyle and co-founded the Oglala Lakota Women’s Society, which brought attention to violence against Lakota women and children, and she provided valuable assistance in addressing the high rate of youth suicides. Over the years, she traveled to tribal communities across the United States and Canada, addressing the topics of wellness and healing, and in 2004, she became the first woman ever chosen to lead her nation as president.
Today, FireThunder is the president of the Oglala Lakota Nation Education Coalition, serves on the board of directors for the Little Wound School, and is an elder/matriarch in Tasunke Wakan Okolakiciye (Medicine Horse Society), which addresses trauma in children using Lakota healing practices. She also is a state-certified Lakota language instructor, and she teaches Lakota Culture, Lakota Traditional Art and American Indian Women classes at Oglala Lakota College. In her spare time, she enjoys creative work—in particular, sewing, beading and making dolls.
As a keynote speaker, FireThunder is indeed a good fit for Passion for Fashion. While on the surface, the event is all about getting teens ready for their high school prom, a much deeper purpose lies beneath the surface.
“During the afternoon event, our young women definitely have a chance to find the perfect prom dress, shoes, jewelry and other accessories,” said Tammy Granados, youth programs director. “But, along the way, they’ll also discover their own unique beauty, find their confidence, embrace the idea of true holistic wellness, and celebrate both their authentic selves and their potential.”
Passion for Fashion starts with a sit-down luncheon in the Keya (Turtle) Cafe and the keynote speech. From there, the young women enter the gymnasium to search for all the prom essentials and enjoy special pampering through hair styling, makeovers, facials, manicures and pedicures. When evening falls, they reveal their outer and inner transformations on the Passion for Fashion catwalk.
“The teens are always shy when we get started, but by the end, their self-esteem is shining,” Granados said. “We see girls who aren’t friends at school become friends by the end of the day. We see them engaging with their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunties and cousins, who are invited to attend with them. They all support each other—it’s a beautiful and powerful process to witness.”
All high-school girls on the Cheyenne River reservation receive personalized invitations to Passion for Fashion, and junior-high girls may attend as well. CRYP also welcomes teens from the nearby Standing Rock reservation, and from border towns such as Faith, South Dakota.
For its 2017 Passion for Fashion event, CRYP 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. The organization also asks for jewelry and hair accessories; makeup and bath sets; gift cards and cash donations.
Staff members will take any contributed funds and make additional purchases based on need. Every contribution makes a difference, no matter the size.
“We’re so grateful to all the donors and volunteers who help make Passion for Fashion such a success year after year,” Granados said. “We can have up to 100 teens lined up outside our doors on the day of Passion for Fashion, and we simply couldn’t make this magical rite of passage happen for them without the support of our friends across the country.”
For details regarding how you can support CRYP’s Passion for Fashion program, see the included sidebar. And to learn more about the program, check out the video on CRYP’s YouTube Channel. Search for “Cheyenne River Youth Project” and “Passion for Fashion.”
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.