“We are struggling...”
"We simply cannot bear to lose any more of our children."
- State-of-Emergency Announcement, Oglala Lakota Nation
The Bears on Pine Ridge (Feature)
Documentary | 85 min | 2023 (Coming Soon)
Noel Octavio Bass
Francene J. Blythe-Lewis
Vision Maker Media
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation has declared a “State of Emergency”, after an outbreak of youth suicides has devastated the community. Due to a lack of Federal assistance, residents have taken prevention efforts into their own hands. A tenacious Oglala Lakota elder takes charge, rallying the community to get involved, while empowering a resilient young group of suicide survivors to band together to help raise awareness.
"The Bears on Pine Ridge," (2023) is an important and timely feature documentary project, made possible by Vision Maker Media and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, releasing this Fall of 2023.
Filmmakers spent 7 years to capture an incredible story of hope and resilience within an isolated Native American community on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This cinematic piece offers viewers unprecedented access to a State-of-Emergency unfolding in South Dakota, where the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe grapples with a deeply troubling youth mental health crisis. With little to no assistance from the Federal Government, the burden of healing their community falls upon the resilient residents of Pine Ridge.
At the heart of this narrative is "Tiny" DeCory, a revered Lakota elder, who selflessly puts her own well-being on the line to address the myriad needs of the reservation. In an inspiring endeavor to empower young survivors of suicide, Tiny spearheads a youth
performance project known as The BEAR Program. Composed predominantly of suicide survivors who still wrestle with depression, self-harm, or PTSD, The BEAR Program forms a resilient and uplifting collective. Clad in vibrant animal costumes, the group energetically dances and performs comedic skits to their community. These performances not only uplift spirits during the crisis but also empower the young suicide survivors to spread the message of "choosing life".
Following their acts, the "Bears" shed their costumes, bravely engaging with the community, and sharing their personal struggles with suicidal ideation with young audiences.
Through the transformative power of The BEAR Program, these resilient youth discover their voices, fearlessly advocating for awareness while instilling joy and hope in other young individuals within the community.