Lakota Country Times: Pine Ridge youth center stresses safety

Youth at the SuAnne Big Crow Center on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota shared artwork using words in the Lakota language. Photo from Facebook

SuAnne Big Crow Center Addresses Incident
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

PINE RIDGE -- In the village of Pine Ridge there exist only a few safe places for youth to congregate. One of these places had long been the SuAnne Big Crow Center. The sanctity of the Center was violated as the location was the site of a brutal shooting.

The SuAnne Big Crow Youth Development Center has been in existence since 1992, with a promise to Parents that it is a “Safe Place” for their children to learn and grow. All youth Activities at the center are well supervised with staff and volunteers making certain that the youth are served in a drug, alcohol and violence free environment.

This past weekend (October 16) the Center rented out their facilities to an adult basketball tournament in the hopes of raising some money to keep the facility open. Unfortunately, this place that has been a bedrock of the community became the site of a violent crime.

On Sunday, multiple unknown gunmen sprung from two separate cars to attack and shoot Vinny Brewer III, in the parking lot of the SueAnne Big Crow Center. Witnesses report seeing two cars carrying an unknown number of passengers who were armed with fully automatic weapons.

"We have a zero tolerance policy for any kind of violence that affects our youth while they are participating in youth activities at the center. The violent and tragic event that occurred at the Center was not a part of our youth program. We were attempting to raise money to pay our light bill and hopefully put in some propane by renting the gym out for an adult basketball tournament. This type of rental is not usual and is only allowed when there is no other way to pay the operating costs," said longtime director, Chick Big Crow.

"We take our responsibility of providing a safe environment for youth very seriously and have never had so much as a fist fight among the youth during our activities. and we will continue serving youth with safe, positive, healthy drug and alcohol free alternative s to make their lives better and encourage awareness for positive, active and happy lives. We hope our programs and activities will be generational changing to impact our future," she added.

Part of the reason why the Center had opted to pursue more revenue is that propane prices skyrocket in the winter. With only a few places for youth to gather on the reservation the Center needs more money to keep its doors open for after school programming. Currently the facility's main revenue source is a small diner called Happy Town.

"Our goal is very clear. It is to provide opportunities to make life better for future generations by encouraging healthy productive citizens that will make our communities safe by being active through giving and volunteerism, said Big Crow. "Now more than ever our youth need positive alternatives to help them make good choices and both Jordan and I will continue to work to keep the club open and the opportunities available," she added.

Visit the Lakota Country Times and subscribe today

The SuAnne Center has the capabilities and equipment to satisfy interests from photography, art, science, music, education, sports, fitness, social activities and opportunities for leadership development geared to socializing in a healthy environment, Leadership programs are geared toward encouraging community spirit and healthy contributing citizens. It offers a work experience program for teens to earn money while learning to succeed in the workforce. It also has a a new technology lab and state of the art photography equipment a library that is compatible to school curriculum.

The facility plans to keep its doors open after reviewing its safety protocols and procedures.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

Find the award-winning Lakota Country Times on the Internet, Facebook and Twitter and download the new Lakota Country Times app today.

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe reacts to shootings (10/26)
Lakota Country Times: Shooting pushes Pine Ridge into action (10/25)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala citizen calls for prayer amid violence (08/18)