Doc ‘Big Crow’ is a tribute to a special girl

SANTA BARBARA (News4usonline) – The memory of SuAnne Big Crow lives on. The moving documentary “Big Crow,” makes sure that the South Dakota High School Hall of Fame inductee’s legacy will continue to flourish.

By the time SuAnne had reached the tender age of 17, she was already a force to be reckoned with. She was a cultural whirlwind, bringing pride and becoming a beacon of inspiration to so many who lived on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  

“I like to help people,” SuAnne Big Crow once stated. “I like to see good things come out of our reservation.”

That’s saying a whole lot when you consider the history of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which is home to the Oglala Lakota Nation tribe. The infamous Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 took place on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which encompasses well over 2.1 million acres of land.    

SuAnne inspired others by example and with her leadership qualities. She did that by being the best of the best in basketball and serving as a role model to the youth on her reservation.

“Kids still look up to her,” said Bryan Brewer, founder of the Lakota Nation Invitational.

SuAnne was more than inspirational to those around her, she had a purpose. That purpose magnified itself through basketball where she was a three-time all-state performer at Pine Ridge High School.

She was special. During her sophomore season, it was SuAnne who made the winning bucket with no time remaining on the clock to give Pine Ridge High School a 42-40 victory and a Class A championship.

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The next season, SuAnne averaged 28 points a game. And then during her senior, Su Anne showed more dominance, scoring more than 30 points a game. She even dropped in 67 points in one contest.

SuAnne was doing big things. She was headed to even bigger accomplishments. Getting a scholarship and navigating her way through college was the next big step for SuAnne. She never got that opportunity.

Those dreams of attending college ended when SuAnne lost her life in an automobile accident on Feb. 9, 1992. SuAnne was on her way to attending and picking up the Miss Basketball Award when she perished.

SuAnne’s passing had a devastating ripple on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation community and beyond.

“Her having so much pride really helped me out,” said CeCe Big Crow, SuAnne’s sister.       

SuAnne embodied the spirit of the ancestors and was unapologetic in who she was. She was able to accomplish both during her short time here on earth.

Now that she’s gone, the legacy of SuAnne seems to be bigger than life. The SuAnne Big Crow Youth Center and the SuAnne Big Crow Boys & Girls Club keep her memory alive.  

However, there have been some major challenges to keep what SuAnne stood for going strong. Unemployment and poverty are first in line. The poverty rate for those living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation hovers at 53 percent.

That average poverty rate for the rest of the country stands at 15 percent, according to the Re-Member website. The obstacles don’t stop there. The high poverty level on the reservation coincides with the high number of individuals who are unemployed.

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The unemployment rate is somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 percent. Suicide has also been a problem. A suicide outbreak in 2020 prodded the Oglala Sioux Tribe to issue a state of emergency declaration on the matter.   

Chancey Witt, a senior basketball player at Pine Ridge High School, talked bluntly about the subject of suicide in “Big Crow.”  

“I find hope in a basketball. That’s what I’m trying to do to get out of this reservation,” Witt said. “Ball and talent fall. I’ll come back to the reservation. I’ll do stuff for our youth. Our youth is in a kind of depression stage right now as I can tell. Like kids counting themselves…thinking that they shouldn’t be on this earth when they should. Suicide…it takes a lot of our people. It does. I had thoughts of it last year. After basketball season that’s when depression really hits me.”  

“Big Crow” highlights these difficulties as part of its bigger narration about the traditions, the living conditions and the appeal to be a normal society within the reservation.

The film, which made its way to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, also discusses the realm of racism that the Indians are treated with just because of who they are.

In the greater context of what they’re facing, SuAnne was supposed to be someone who bridged the traditions of her people with the forward advanced thinking of youth. Without apology, she was the embodiment of those living on the reservation.

“I hope to be a role model to younger students,” SuAnne said in an interview that is shown in the documentary. “I think it’s very important to have a positive role model on an Indian reservation.”