Notes from Indian Country
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© 2014 Native Sun News
November 3, 2014
SuAnne Big Crow was furious after she watched an NBC broadcast about the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1981. "They came here and showed all of the terrible things and did not bother to show any of the good things," she said.
Big Crow was a star basketball player, and a proud defender of her homelands. She was only 17 and she could not understand how a supposed sophisticated news network could be so negative and so wrong.
Big Crow died in an automobile accident before she even had a chance to live and to fight for her dreams. She envisioned a place where Lakota children could go, a place where they would be safe and happy. In fact, in her mind she called it "Happy Town." She was on her way to get a basketball award in eastern South Dakota with her mother when the car crash ended her life.
After her death her mother, "Chick" Big Crow, decided to make the dream of her daughter a reality. She contacted the corporate executives of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and made them a pitch. They came out to Pine Ridge and made an assessment and granted Ms. Big Crow the first Boys and Girls Club franchise to be established on an Indian reservation. It was named the SuAnne Big Crow Boy's and Girl's Club after the girl who wanted a "Happy Town" for the children of the reservation.
Since that day the SuAnne Big Crow's Boy's and Girl's Club has been a place where the young Lakota can find a place to play and to learn. Along with the fun things, such as the only swimming pool on this giant reservation, the Lakota elders can come and teach the children the traditional arts and crafts that have been a part of their culture for time immemorial.
And yes, there is a problem with alcoholism on the reservation and I could write a book about why this is so. But the Boy's and Girl's Club also provides a safe shelter for the children of the drug and alcohol abusers.
This young lady named SuAnne saw the big picture that seems to evade the Pine Ridge politicians who believe they can stamp out alcoholism by keep the reservation dry and by going across the border to Whiteclay, Nebraska and protesting and trying to shut down the privately owned business that sell the liquor. At a young age SuAnne knew that it was a problem with the consumers of alcohol and not the stores that sold it. She knew this and she had begun to figure out a way to approach solving the problem when she died. She wanted to start a project of prevention because she believed that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Starting by educating the children her age, the teenagers, is the path SuAnne chose, but died before she could set the wheels in motion.
When SuAnne Big Crow led the Pine Ridge Lady Thorpes to the State A Basketball Championship in 1981 by sinking the winning shot off of a rebound with only seconds to play, the bus carrying her and the team home from the tournament was met by more than 200 cars and with horns honking and lights flashing, the proud sports fans of the Pine Ridge Reservation guided their beloved team home. Her heroics on the basketball court lifted the spirits of her people.
I hope you can see that we desperately need that "Happy Town" for children to go where they can have fun and stay out of trouble and the SuAnne Big Crow Club for Boys and Girls is that place. In the more than 34 years I have been writing a weekly column I don't do this very often, but in the early Christmas spirit, I will give you an address where you can send badly needed donations that will go to a truly good cause. If you want to help hundreds of Indian children this is a place to start. For those philanthropists so eager to reach out and help the children of Africa, Asia or any other foreign country, remember that there are Native Americans right here in your own country who badly need your kindness.
Send your donations to: The Visions of SuAnne Big Crow; P.O. Box 5079; Pine Ridge, SD 57770; or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
SuAnne's mother known to everyone as "Chick" was diagnosed with cancer recently and has been gallantly fighting the disease. She still needs contributions to keep the Boy's and Girl's Club solvent. I am sending her a small donation today: so please join me for the worthiest of all causes.
(Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1991. His weekly column won the H. L. Mencken Award in 1985. He was the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association. He can be reached at email@example.com)