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Custom cultural warm-ups bring awareness and history to the hardwood for Crow Nation

Apsáalooké fashion designer takes runway fashion to the basketball court
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Posted at 10:24 AM, Feb 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-29 12:51:28-05

The Plenty Coups lady Warriors hit the basketball court for high school divisionals in Miles City with a game on Feb. 29, but it’s what they’re wearing that’s catching eyes.

From the runway to the court, indigenous fashion is bouncing into a new arena, leaving a lasting impression of pride on players and fans alike.

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Sweet Sage Woman models on the runway 2022

“I feel very proud. I feel very, very proud and I hope they feel proud and empowered to be walking with their traditional designs,” said Yolanda Old Dwarf, CEO and indigenous artist at Sweet Sage Woman.

Old Dwarf is the fashion designer responsible for putting traditional designs on contemporary basketball warm-ups for the Plenty Coups Warriors.

“It being the school I graduated from, it felt very special to me,” said Old Dwarf.

Now, some 20 years later, it may just be a cultural slam dunk for the Crow Nation as the Plenty Coups Warriors rock geometric patterns and a little history on the hardwood.

“The Crow Tribe is known for our geometric and floral designs,” said Old Dwarf. “When you see horses being paraded, they have this specific design that has the horse hair around it. It is a keyhole and is usually worn on the horse, the horse's forehead, and then the very popular hourglass shape.”

The design adorns the Pryor school, and its reach is even further now as the patterns hit the hardwood paint.

“People are proud because it's not just an indigenous designer, it's a Crow designer that’s designing for a Crow team,” said Old Dwarf.

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Sweet Sage Woman design ideas

But indigenous history has a dark side, too, one Old Dwarf and the Pryor Warriors are also trying to bring to light.

“Historically our Crow tribal women have been abused, and that’s part of why I coach girls basketball, is I want to show respect for women in that way,” said Cameron McCormick, head girls basketball coach for Plenty Coups High School.

“Selena Not Afraid was probably the main inspiration,” said Angela Goes Ahead, Pryor high school girls assistant coach. “The kids really were moved by that to bring awareness to other teams and communities, so that's why they have the handprint on there.”

The Lady Warriors collaborated on the warm-ups with Sweet Sage Woman, incorporating the red handprint, a well-recognized missing and murdered indigenous women logo.

“The red handprint signifies the color of blood. It's the color of life. The profile of the crying woman hidden in that signifies the fact that we are not seen as indigenous women,” said Old Dwarf.

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It’s an education off and now on the court with a clear message of resilience, ready to be seen by all.

“Come support the Plenty Coups Lady Warriors,” says coach McCormick.

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Plenty Coups Lady Warriors warm-ups design