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The Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is under a declared “State of Emergency”, after a devastating rash of youth suicides tragically reaches the highest levels in the country. Due to inadequate federal assistance, residents have taken prevention efforts into their own hands. The Oglala Sioux Tribe’s suicide prevention team (The Sweetgrass Project) is a small unit, working around the clock to manage the crisis. The film follows team leader, “Tiny” DeCory, a highly respected female and outspoken Lakota elder, as she sacrifices her own health to answer the many needs on the reservation. In an effort to empower young suicide-survivors, Tiny creates a youth performance group called The Bear Program. This dynamic group of young survivors, most who still struggle with depression and self-harm, band together as a truly inspirational collective. Dressed in big colorful animal costumes, tattered with rips and tears, the group dances energetically to loud pop music and performs comedic sketches for the community. Afterward, the “Bears” remove their outfits to open up, speaking courageously to young audiences about their own personal struggles growing up on the reservation. Through the Bear Program, these resilient youth find their “voice”, courageously speaking out to bring awareness, and bringing joy and hope to other youth in the community.
TRT: 57 Minutes
Walt is Oglala Lakota and created the logo for Urban Rez. He is Creative Director, owner of Nakota Designs Advertising Designs and Graphics. Executive Director of the Stronghold Society nonprofit dedicated to instilling hope and supporting youth movements through Live Life Call To Action Campaigns.