2017-11-09 / Voices

Providing A Feeling of Joy


Football and volleyball season have finally ended with the Pine Ridge Lady Thorpes dropping a match in the Sweet-16 to wrap up their stellar season. Under the direction of Head Coach Nellie Long, the Thorpes have built themselves into a program that has been a force for the past several years and I would personally like to send out a thank-you to the team for the gifts they have given the people.

Back in 2002, I played for the Pine Ridge Thorpes’ basketball team under the direction of the legendary Lyle “Dusty” LeBeau. After a tough regular season, we qualified for the State tournament and we were graciously awarded with a giant pep rally where video of Willie White and the legendary Thorpes teams of the late 80’s were projected on to the gym wall. It was a strange sensation to witness how the people still held that team close to their hearts nearly two-decades after they moved on.

The late Oliver Red Cloud helped me to understand why we love our high school teams so much in these parts. There have been plenty of talks that I have heard and then forgotten, but the talk that Chief Oliver Red Cloud gave to us that day has always resonated with me.

As he addressed the team, Chief Red Cloud would tell thank us for the “good feelings that we had given the people.” As a young athlete this took me back. How could we as young kids playing a sport we love actually change the morale of the people? As I thought about my childhood some of the most pronounced memories I have are of epic high school basketball games. The greatest duel I ever witnessed was Jess Hart vs. Rich Crow Eagle. The greatest game had to be when Jesse LeBeau hit a shot from half-court to knock out an absolutely stacked Little Wound team. The victory put that Red Cloud team on a track to win it all.

Chief Red Cloud would continue on to tell us that when we played the game it gave the people a chance to get away from the struggles that we all face living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. It provided an escape and a feeling of joy for all of them.

As someone who no longer competes I can now better appreciate what he was telling us.

I look forwards to watching our teams this year and I thank the student-athletes for providing us with something that truly makes us happy.

*Brandon Ecoffey is the editor of LCT and is an award-winning journalist who was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

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