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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


December 29, 2001 - Issue 52


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Three Chosen for Lakota Nation Basketball Hall of Fame

credits: photo of SuAnne Big Crow
photo of SuAnne Big CrowRAPID CITY -- Two players and one coach, each of whom had major impacts on American Indian basketball, will be inducted into the Lakota Nation Basketball Hall of Fame tonight at the Lakota Nation Invitational tournament.

The three, all deceased, are SuAnne Big Crow, a star player at Pine Ridge High School; Bob Clifford, longtime coach at Red Cloud High School; and Dr. Robert Eagle Staff, who still holds a North Dakota state scoring record.

The three are the first to be inducted into the hall of fame. The induction will be before the start of the third- and fourth-place games tonight at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

They were selected by a panel from 71 nominations this year, David "Tally" Plume, Hall of Fame coordinator, said. This year, one player (Eagle Staff), one coach (Clifford) and one contributor (Big Crow) were chosen.

Overall criteria include "a positive impact on Native American basketball programs," Plume said. Participation in the Lakota Nation Invitational is not a requirement.

Eagle Staff's selection as a player reflects the Hall of Fame's emphasis on academics as well as basketball achievement, Plume said. To be selected as a player to the Hall of Fame, an athlete must graduate from college and use all of his or her college basketball eligibility. "We want kids to take their basketball skills beyond high school," Plume said.

Eagle Staff still holds the single-season scoring record in North Dakota, 71 points in one game for Fort Yates, according to his brother, Tom Eagle Staff of White Horse. Another of his records, for total points scored in high school, stood until just a few years ago.

Eagle Staff was a two-time high-school All-American at Fort Yates, where he graduated in 1971.

A member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Eagle Staff went on to graduate from the University of North Dakota, where he was an All-North Central Conference selection. He went on to earn a doctorate in education. He was chief executive officer of an all-Indian school in Seattle at the time of his death in 1997 at age 45.

Clifford coached at Red Cloud High School for 35 years. He organized the school's original basketball team in 1925. Four years later, he brought home the school's first championship trophy when the Crusaders beat Pine Ridge's boarding school in the finals of what was called the Duhamel Class B tournament at Rapid City.

Clifford also coached at St. Francis High School for two years. The St. Francis Warriors won the first State Catholic Tournament in 1937, beating Sioux Falls Cathedral (now O'Gorman).

His Red Cloud teams won four more championships in the 1940s. Clifford's girls basketball teams had 15 perfect seasons, according to material provided by the Lakota Nation Invitational.

Plume noted that coach Clifford's selection goes beyond winning and losing.

"He urged all his students to use their God-given ability as best they could," Chuck Cuny, past LNI Tournament director, said. "To win or lose was secondary to taking your talent as far as you can."

Clifford, who died in 1971, was elected to the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame in the early 1980s.

Big Crow was a star basketball player at Pine Ridge who also was known for promoting cultural understanding and goodwill between the races.

A three-time All-State selection, she also was a USA Today All-American honorable mention. She set several state records, including most points in a game (67) and most points in a season. She led her team to a state championship, scoring the winning basket as time ran out.

Big Crow also finished first academically in her class and spoke across the country against drug and alcohol abuse. She also confronted bigotry and worked toward reconciliation between the races, according to a biographical sketch on a Web site for the The Visions of SuAnne Big Crow, a nonprofit corporation providing services for youth on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

She was killed in a car accident on Feb. 9, 1992, at age 17.

One of Big Crow's visions was the establishment of a safe, drug and alcohol-free youth facility at Pine Ridge.

After her death, her family founded the SuAnne Big Crow Boys and Girls Club in Pine Ridge and the adjacent restaurant called "Happytown USA." A new $6 million structure for the boys and girls club will open in May, according to her mother, Leatrice "Chick" Big Crow.

SuAnne Big Crow Boys and Girls Club
The SuAnne Big Crow Boys and Girls club was the first charter member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America to be established on an Indian reservation and has paved the way for almost 80 clubs that have opened since.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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