|HUD No. 00-199|
|Further Information:||For Release|
|In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685||Thursday|
|Or contact your local HUD office||August 3, 2000|
CUOMO, ROMINGER JOIN PINE RIDGE TRIBAL LEADERS FOR WELLNESS CENTER GROUND BLESSING
PINE RIDGE, SOUTH DAKOTA - U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Richard Rominger today joined with other federal officials and tribal leaders for a traditional "ground blessing" at the site of the future SuAnne Big Crow Boys and Girls Club Youth Opportunity and Wellness Center on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
As part of President Clinton's commitment to the Oglala Lakota Sioux people at Pine Ridge, HUD has partnered with the USDA and the Department of Interior to bring wellness and opportunity programs to the youth on the reservation.
Last year, President Clinton and Cuomo along with Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman visited Pine Ridge as part of the New Markets tour and announced the Administration's commitment to funding a state-of-the-art facility designed to address the needs of Pine Ridge youths.
"The Wellness Center is about hope. It is about giving the young people of Pine Ridge a positive outlet for their energy and talent," said Cuomo. "The youth of Pine Ridge will now be able to go to a first-class facility that they can be proud of to plan their futures."
In addition to participating in the ground blessing ceremony, Cuomo will release a report titled "Shared Visions: Pine Ridge, A Year Later Sharing the Dream," which details progress on the reservation to increase homeownership, available housing, and economic development.
"It's our commitment at USDA to support another of this nation's precious resources our communities. USDA continues to have a strong presence in Pine Ridge and is pleased to help bring thousands of Native Americans not only life skills training, education and career development, but a real chance to fulfill their potential and dreams," said USDA Deputy Secretary Richard Rominger.
The Wellness Center was named for a SuAnne Big Crow, a gifted young Indian woman from the reservation, who lead her high school basketball team to the 1989 state championship. SuAnne was a leader for her peers and an outspoken voice against alcohol and drug abuse. She was committed to getting a college education and returning to Pine Ridge to establish programs to help other youth. Tragically, SuAnne was killed in an automobile accident in February 1992.
Her mother, Chick Big Crow, inspired by her daughter's commitment, worked diligently to establish the center.
"When SuAnne died, the people in Pine Ridge said we were not going to get our happy town' SuAnne's dream place where there would be no alcohol, no drugs, and no prejudice. She wanted all of us to grow and prosper. Even the adults believed," her mother said.
"Her death didn't stop us; instead, it became our motivation. It's just amazing how closely the architect's plans resemble those we jotted down on a piece of paper and they never even saw our drawings. SuAnne is guiding us spiritually; her dream is helping us through. This Wellness Center was our ten-year goal, and we have managed to reach it in just under ten years. We are so excited."
Much of the work in making the center a reality came from the SuAnne Big Crow Boys and Girls Club and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, which has put much time and resources into the planning of the facility.
While more than half of the population on the Pine Ridge Reservation is under 18and the facility will focus on youth, it will also serve the adult population. Some of the planned services include classes in preventing diabetes and heart disease; rehabilitation services, mental health and wellness counseling, job preparedness and weekly programs targeted at helping youths develop long range plans.
The facility will feature a gymnasium, learning center, conference and counseling rooms, Olympic-sized swimming pool, exercise and fitness center, cultural arts center, kitchen, gift shop and Native American library.
The Pine Ridge Reservation, located about 420 miles from Denver, the closest major city, has an unemployment rate that exceeds 70 percent.