Mobridge representative Calico Ducheneaux did not go to 2018 Girls State with the intention of running for office, but through encouraging words and tapping her inner confidence, she was elected to the governorship by her fellow Girl Staters.
Ducheneaux is the first delegate from Mobridge to be elected as governor at an annual conference.
She attended the 2018 American Legion Girls State event May 30 through June 1, at the University of South Dakota campus in Vermillion as one of seven delegates from Mobridge. More than 300 young women from across the state attended this year’s event.
The excitement of the experience still resonates in Ducheneaux’s voice as she talks about what led up to her decision to seek the governorship.
“I really didn’t go there with any intention to run but I ended up really clicking with the girls in my city (Philadelphia) right away and they encouraged me to run,” she said. “I started to think that I could do this.”
When a senior advisor took her aside and told Ducheneaux she thought she would be an excellent candidate, it was the last bit of encouragement she needed.
“All of their words gave me the confidence to do this,” she said. “I had the confidence inside me and they helped me realize that I could.”
Ducheneaux said her drive to get to know the delegates at Girls State also helped form her platform for the governor’s race. She said she focused on the message that as young women, there is an opportunity for all to have an influence on their communities and the lives around them. She said the relationships that she built with other delegates were important to her message.
Ducheneaux built her platform “You in Your Youth” on using the assets of young women to get involved. Her platform used different parts of the body to explain as the pillars of her platform. She explained the feet were to lead young women in the right direction, the hands to pass on the knowledge they learn along the way and the eyes to look to the future.
Ducheneaux said it is important, as young women to feel like no matter what, they can do great things.
She said she is now looking forward to her duties as governor and to seeing Girls State with a new perspective next year including a more diversified event. Ducheneaux said she is excited to have the opportunity to meet the members of the American Legion at state and local events. She will have lunch with Gov. Dennis Daugaard and have the opportunity to see first hand, the South Dakota Legislature at work.
Ducheneaux plans to pursue law when she graduates from MPHS, specializing in Native American policy and food sustainability.
Her family owns a ranch on Cheyenne River Reservation and she said that has had an important impact on her future.
She said when Native Americans were forced into changes to their lifestyles, such as having the inability to feed their families after the white man nearly exterminated the buffalo population, family traditions were also wiped out.
“Doing away with traditional foods is a way of doing away with the culture,” she said. “You can’t have sovereignty if you can’t feed yourself. Food sovereignty is important to economic and political sovereignty.”
Ducheneaux said there were several revelations that occurred during the event that will remain with her and be part of who she is as a person.
“I learned the impact that words can have on you. With that kind of support and encouragement we will be amazed at what we can do,” she said. “Also how important speaking your mind is.”
Girls State was authorized in 1937-38, and is now established in 50 American Legion Auxiliary Departments in the U.S.
American Legion Auxiliary South Dakota Girls State was founded in Mitchell in 1947. It met regularly each year on the campus of Dakota Wesleyan University until 1985, when it was moved to the campus of South Dakota State University, but has been held on the University of South Dakota campus for the last 17 years. From an enrollment of 117 girls in 1947, Girls State has grown to its present enrollment of more than 400 girls.
– Katie Zerr –