Trailer: The Bears on Pine Ridge
Youth program on Pine Ridge Reservation suffers setback
Monday, December 7, 2020
Indianz.Com

The Grinch came early this year, ransacking a popular youth program on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation and leaving some in the tribal community wondering who could be so heartless.

Last Wednesday night, a burglar broke down a door to the Bear Program, a youth and suicide nonprofit that operates in Billy Mills Hall, a community center in Pine Ridge.

The thief stole three guitars, four computers, shoes, four animal hides used to make drums, sketch pads, colored markers, paints, two gaming systems and wrapped presents that the program’s organizers planned to give to children at Christmas.

Yvonne “Tiny” DeCory, director of the Bear Program, said a witness who found the man inside the program’s offices told DeCory that it was a man who had visited the Bear Program a few months earlier.

DeCory said she and others helped provide the man with shoes because his were too small and were causing blisters to his feet.

“We put shoes on his feet,” she said. “We gave him clothing. We gave him a jacket, and we gave him gloves.”

bear program
Damage from the December 2, 2020, break-in at the Bear Program, housed at the Billy Mills Hall on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Courtesy photo

bear program
Damage from the December 2, 2020, break-in at the Bear Program, housed at the Billy Mills Hall on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Courtesy photo

bear program
Damage from the December 2, 2020, break-in at the Bear Program, housed at the Billy Mills Hall on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Courtesy photo

The Bear Program provides mentoring and tutoring to students, and without computers and other schools supplies to offer those services, the program has had to scale back the services it provides to youth in Pine Ridge, DeCory said.

She said the loss of the Christmas gifts for the children the program serves is especially disheartening.

“Of course, it’s Christmas,” she said. “We always work to provide a little something for the families.”

She said the Bear Program will still be able to provide food to children who need it and is still planning to host a December 22 Parade of Lights, which features floats created by local organizations and individuals on the main road through Pine Ridge. And the program will still host a hot chocolate and chili feed, she said.

eileenjanis
Eileen Janis. Courtesy photo

Eileen Janis, who works with DeCory, said she and DeCory confronted the man who they believe stole the program’s property after he allegedly returned to the program’s offices on Friday. But he denied taking anything and said he didn’t know where any of their stolen property might be, Janis said.

She said several individuals have reached out to the Bear Program to offer to replace certain stolen items.

She said the Bear Program still plans to host a Christmas party for the children who regularly visit the Bear’s Den. Janis said she’s hopeful the program will be able to replace the gifts that were stolen, though it has been difficult to remember which children were supposed to receive gifts.

“We just got to remember who they are,” she said.