SuAnne Big Crow
In the fall of 1988, the Pine Ridge Lady Thorpes went to Lead
to play a basketball game. SuAnne was a full member of the team
by then. She was a freshman, fourteen years old. Getting ready
in the locker room, the Pine Ridge girls could hear the din from
the fans. They were yelling fake-indian war cries, a "woo-woo-woo"
sound. The usual plan for the pre-game warm-up was for the visiting
team to run onto the court in a line, take a lap or two around
the floor, shoot some baskets, and then go to their bench at courtside.
After that, the home team would come out and do the same, and
then the game would begin. Usually the Thorpes lined up for their
entry more or less according to height, which meant that senior
Doni De Cory, one of the tallest, went first. As the team waited
in the hallway leading from the locker room, the heckling got
louder. The Lead fans were yelling epithets like "squaw"
and "gut-eater." Some were waving food stamps, a reference
to the reservation's receiving federal aid. Others yelled, "Where's
the cheese?"the joke being that if Indians were lining up,
it must be to get commodity cheese. The Lead high school band
had joined in, with fake-Indian drumming and a fake-Indian tune.
Doni De Cory looked out the door and told her teammates, "I
can't handle this." SuAnne quickly offered to go first in
her place. She was so eager that Doni became suspicious. "Don't
embarrass us," Doni told her. SuAnne said, "I won't.
I won't embarrass you." Doni gave her the ball and SuAnne
stood first in line.
She came running onto the court dribbling the basketball, with
her teammates running behind. On the court, the noise was deafeningly
loud. SuAnne went right down the middle; but instead of running
a full lap, she suddenly stopped when she got to center court.
her teammates were taken by surprise, and some bumped into one
another. Coach Zimiga at the rear of the line did not know why
they had stopped. SuAnne turned to Doni De Cory and tossed her
the ball. Then she stepped into the jump-ball circle at center
court, in front of the Lead fans. She unbuttoned her warm-up jacket,
took it off, draped it over her shoulders, and began to do the
Lakota shawl dance. SuAnne knew all the traditional dances she
had competed in many powwows as a little girl and the dance she
chose is a young woman's dance, graceful and modest and show-offy
all at the same time. "I couldn't believe it she was powwowin',
like, 'get down!'" Doni De Cory recalled. "And then
she started to sing." SuAnne began to sing in Lakota, swaying
back and forth in the jump-ball circle, doing the shawl dance,
using her warm-up jacket for a shawl. The crowd went completely
silent. "All that stuff the Lead fans were yelling it was
like she reversed it somehow," a teammate said. In the sudden
quiet, all you could hear was her Lakota song. SuAnne stood up,
dropped her jacket, took the ball from Doni De Cory, and ran a
lap around the court dribbling expertly and fast. The fans began
to cheer and applaud. She sprinted to the basket, went up in the
air, and laid the ball through the hoop, with the fans cheering
loudly now. Of course, Pine Ridge went on to win the game.
-- Ian Frazier, in On The Rez
"SuAnne didn't respond to peer pressure,
SuAnne was peer pressure"
-- Rol Bradford