The Pine Ridge Reservation, a place that is often painted as one of the most impoverished, unhealthy and downright ugly places that you can imagine, whose 28,000 residents call this place home and choose not only to overlook the negative, but also to do what they can to make it beautiful.
One of those residents is local youth, Janay Jumping Eagle, Oglala Lakota, of Kyle, SD. Last winter, Janay posted a photo to her Facebook profile of a basketball, with the writing “I wish all the sad kids can feel what I feel when I pick this up. There is hope.”
Those three words have since kick started a movement to educate her people and help prevent suicide by doing what she does best – play basketball. If you happened to be at a Little Wound Lady Mustangs game this season or last, you would have undoubtedly noticed a 5’4” blur driving through defenders and sinking half court buzzer beaters. Janay also made the Lakota Nation Invitational All Tournament team for the second year in a row, the first year was when she was a freshman coming off of the bench; she definitely gives new meaning to the Shakespeare quote, “Though she be but little, she is fierce!”
Although her original post went viral, that wasn’t the initial goal; Jumping Eagle is also a very driven and hard working student. She’s maintained a 4.0 since middle school, and was selected to represent the Oglala Sioux Tribe at the White House Tribal Nations Conference, as a Youth Ambassador, this past December, where MTV Rebel Music followed her, and one other youth, from their homes to D.C. for the conference. Watch here: http://www.rebelmusic.com/#!music/rebel-music/episode/native-america/lightbox/video/journey-to-the-white-house-generation-indigenous-gen-i
There are plenty of positive things currently happening on the Pine Ridge, including the upcoming #ThereIsHope Weekend, a basketball tournament geared toward the youth, that Jumping Eagle also teamed up with Nike N7 to help put on for the youth in our community.
Janay also let us in on her motives and inspiration for There Is Hope:
Tell us about your background and upbringing.
“My name is Janay Jumping Eagle. I was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. I currently attend Little Wound High School as a fifteen year old in high school.”
What made you want to be an advocate for suicide prevention?
“I wanted to prevent suicide because suicide is not the answer or the way out! Also, because I strongly believe that the younger ones are the future.”
What was going through your mind when you first posted the photo?
“I just didn't want anyone feeling the way my family and I felt when we lost our loved one due to suicide.”
Did you think it would go viral? Were you overwhelmed at the response?
“When I put that on Facebook, the attention I was getting was overwhelming and I didn't like it. I'm not the one that likes all the attention like that.”
Where did “#ThereIsHope” come from?
“The There is Hope campaign started with a basketball; the basketball that my grandpa gave me for Christmas. One night, I was thinking that we need to do something about all of this suicide, so I wrote on the ball and put ‘I wish all the sad kids could feel what I feel when I pick this up. There is hope!'”
Her mother, Echo LeBeaux, says “The current suicide epidemic on our reservation is such a sad deal that I have no words for my children when it happens again and again. It's such a sensitive subject because so many families have been affected by this on our reservation, but I just keep the faith and keep praying for some kind of miracle. Like someone mentioned, its up to the youth to stand up and fight suicide. What do they want, how do they want to do it, when, where, why, and whatever ideas and solutions they come up with, we as parents have to be there to back them, support them and encourage them in that way. Which leads me to why I am supporting Janay and the There is Hope Weekend 150%. Whether she gets 200 kids to participate or 2 kids to participate, the ultimate goal is to make at least one kid smile, feel safe and be happy for the weekend. Right now, at this point, in this alarming epidemic, any little bit of help for the youth is needed. I encourage all other youth to step up and reach out and help stop this tragedy.”
DONATE HERE to help make #ThereIsHope Weekend happen next month here: http://www.gofundme.com/janayjump
#ThereIsHope Campaign video
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