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(PBS) 'Young Lakota' Men, Church or State cannot stop Oglala Lakota Woman

Sunny Clifford
Sunny Clifford
"Young Lakota" Website

Young Lakota” (Independent Lens) follows the journey of an Oglala Lakota woman named Sunny Clifford (21) who learns how to stand in her own power. She went to college, but quit to return to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. She wanted to find out where she came from. She was raised by her mother within the Catholic church. Her mom was also ashamed to be an Oglala Lakota. Sunny knew nothing about her own tribal heritage.

She returned to the reservation & works at the grocery store. She has a new boyfriend who wants to have kids, but she doesn't want to. Sunny yearns to do something more with her life. Brandon Ferguson then introduces her to Cecelia Fire Thunder who became the first female president of the Oglala Lakota Nation.

The state of South Dakota had a ballot measure to ban abortion in 2006. Cecelia was against this ban & wanted to build a clinic on her Indian Reservation. Her stance was not abortion. It was that women have the right to choose for themselves. The abortion issue divided the Oglala nation as well as the residents of the state. The tribal council impeached Cecelia.

The acting Oglala council members took the abortion issue very personal. Will Peters called Cecelia an extremist, but himself an extremist with “scruples.” He laughed at the idea that women can choose for themselves. Eileen Janis stated that “we” don't want baby's blood spilled here. Again, Cecelia's stance was about the woman's right to choose, especially when it came to violent rape & molestation.

An Oglala male who is a practicing Catholic stated that it was a sin to kill innocent babies. Cecelia spoke at a press conference saying that we should keep church politics out of a woman's right to choose. Native Rap artist “Litefoot” drove into Pine Ridge with his tour. He was positive, but came off as a preacher. He felt that a clinic isn't going to solve the tribe's problems & that Indian girls have to stop disrespecting themselves. Sunny told him it was not just about handing out sexual condoms. The clinic will be there to help victims of rape & violence.

Cecelia then ran for president again in the coming tribal elections. She awakened something within Sunny who felt that she was “nothing” in this world. Cecelia taught her that she was an Indian woman who has the power to make up her own mind. Sunny walked with Cecelia door-to-door on the campaign for president. Her personal life though was something else. Her boyfriend tatooed “Sunny Clifford” on his back & shoulders. Sunny believed that she didn't belong to anyone but herself.

Cecelia lost in the primary election by 2 votes under John Steele & Alex White Plume. Alex was then removed from the ballot because of an assault felony charge which was later ex-spunged. Cecelia was back on the ballot going up against John Steele. The day of the tribal election was the same day as the state-wide election on the measure to ban abortion. The ban lost in the 2008 elections & women in the state still have a right to choose. Cecelia then lost to John Steele as president of the Oglala Lakota.

Cecelia was eventually granted funding to build a domestic violence center on the reservation for Indian women. Sunny's boyfriend later began to show signs of physical violence. She found the strength to leave him & realized that she deserves to be respected by men. She also found herself as a Oglala Lakota woman - who in the end - can sing a beautiful tribal song.

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