Column: Youth center brings hope to children


Commentary by Dr. Sally Brown Bassett

One winter day in December a few years back, Chick Big Crow of the Pine Indian Reservation picked me up at the Rapid City Airport. With very little knowledge of our Native Americans, I was not sure what to expect. My mission was to see the work that Chick Big Crow was doing for the Lakota Sioux children.

Chick’s daughter, SuAnne Big Crow, died in an automobile accident when she was 17 years old. SuAnne had been a star basketball and had great hopes of making a difference. After her death, Chick decided to make her daughter’s dreams a reality. She opened the first Boys and Girls Club on an Indian reservation. During his term, President Bill Clinton visited and granted $1 million toward the building of the center.

Chick Big Crow did her best to show me the concerns and reality of life on the reservation that affects her work. It was shocking to see small, rundown homes along desolate roads. Food available could barely be called nutritional. Alcoholism and/or drug abuse is a way of life in most families. The reservation is considered “dry” but just a couple of miles down the road were liquor stores in Nebraska. Chick’s biggest obstacle was trying to break the cycle of that way of life and show the children they could be ambitious and want more.

I wrote in a recent Current article about seeing the most devastating poverty in Cambodia. This is not necessarily what I encountered in South Dakota. What was truly devastating was the lack of hope. Hope is needed for true change, where children would be motivated to learn and achieve their potential.

One woman has made a difference. It was originally Chick Big Crow’s daughter’s dream to see a youth center built. SuAnne’s dream became Chick’s. Chick made it a reality. Hope is being generated.

Dr. Sally Brown Bassett is a yogi, social entrepreneur and world traveler.  She is the founder and president of Peace through Yoga Foundation, where she leads trips to Costa Rica several times a year and works at the foundations’ International Center for Peace. Sally teaches at Peace through Yoga and Butler University. She can be reached at

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