Cecelia Fire Thunder, the first female President of the Oglala Sioux tribe, challenges a South Dakota law criminalizing all abortion and ignites a political firestorm that sets off a chain reaction in the lives of three young Lakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation, forcing each of them to define who they are and the kind of adults they are becoming.
The Pine Ridge Reservation is no stranger to strife and heartbreak, stark realities and inspired idealism. In Young Lakota, we are brought directly into the emotional and often uncertain journey of Sunny Clifford, her twin sister Serena, and their politically ambitious friend Brandon Ferguson, who all share the compelling desire to make a difference for themselves and their community. Their political awakening begins when Cecelia Fire Thunder, the first female president of their tribe, defies a proposed South Dakota law criminalizing all abortion by threatening to build a women’s clinic on the sovereign territory of the reservation. Sunny, just back on the reservation after two years in college, Serena, unwed and with a toddler, and Brendan with two little boys, find themselves immersed in this political battle as they struggle between opportunity and principle; between selling out or staying the course through twists and turns that they could not have anticipated. This is a uniquely sensitive portrayal of bright young people finding their way, as the film follows the surprising highs and lows of the statewide referendum on abortion and a divisive tribal election. Young Lakota tells the tale of the diverging paths Brandon and Sunny begin to take. Ultimately it is the complex interplay of personal choice, cultural, economic and political circumstance that defines who they are and what kind of adults they are becoming. Beyond the divisiveness and turmoil, the stark disappointments and heady triumphs, Sunny’s courage and Cecelia Fire Thunder’s wisdom gives Young Lakota a sense of enduring possibility and of life being lived deeply that will resonate with any audience.