Alumna promotes message of nonviolence
Protests are happening all over the world today. Many of them start off peaceful but end up turning violent.
This is something that Palm Beach State College alumna and Native American expert and activist Jenny Big Crow hopes to help change through her message promoting nonviolence.
Big Crow speaks often on her Native American heritage and the importance of civil disobedience, especially the lessons she learned as part of the 2016 Standing Rock Protest.
The grassroots movement happened in reaction to the planned Dakota Access Pipeline construction in the northern United States.
The pipeline was projected to run under part of Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation which includes all of Sioux County, North Dakota and all of Corson County, South Dakota.
Big Crow, who earned an Associate in Arts degree from PBSC in 2011, was born and raised in the Oglala Lakota tribe in South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
“Native American tribes hold the earth in high regard,” Big Crow said. “We don’t believe that it should be tampered with, and we really want to preserve our water. If the pipe burst and oil spilled that would affect my relatives.”
Members of her tribe and other surrounding tribes joined a camp called Sacred Stone Camp in North Dakota established in April 2016 by Standing Rock Sioux elder LaDonna Brave Bull Allard. It served as a center for cultural preservation and spiritual resistance to the pipeline. Over the summer, the camp grew to thousands of people. Big Crow was living in south Florida at the time but traveled there to join her family and friends at the site.
“Being a part of that camp was just an awe inspiring moment– I can’t put it into words,” Big Crow said. “I saw my tribe flag flying there and people came from all over the world. The seven tribes of Sioux were there in teepees together. This was the first time in 150 years that has happened. The tribes would dance and sing, and everyone was acting peaceful.”
That peace came to an end, however, when the government decided to build the pipeline despite the wishes of the camp participants. The National Guard was called in and officers then tried to physically remove people from the area.
“I watched on the news and on social media my relatives being abused and sprayed with water and pepper spray,” Big Crow said. It was awful to watch and so unnecessary.”
Even though the pipeline was eventually built, and violence occurred, Big Crow says good things still came from the experience.
“The camp brought a lot of the Native American community together and people all over the world supported us,” Big Crow said. “It made an impact. One small act can build and build and eventually we can make changes to bring about more peace.”
Big Crow also encouraged students to learn more about other cultures, so they can have a better understanding of viewpoints other than their own.
“Be willing to look outside your own culture and know that just because someone’s culture is different than yours doesn’t mean that that culture is wrong,” Big Crow said. “Be open to other people and other’s people’s perspective.”
Big Crow spoke on her Native American culture and the Dakota Pipeline Protest at the Loxahatchee Groves campus recently during their Peace Week and in November, 2018. In addition to speaking, she is an Army veteran and founded a mentoring program. She now trains other leaders and organizations on starting their own programs. She is also a survivor of emotional, spiritual, sexual, alcohol and drug abuse. She has spoken at conferences, schools, prisons, small groups and other venues. Her personal story is featured on The 700 Club.
When asked about her time at PBSC, Big Crow says, “I enjoyed it at PBSC and loved the professors. The best part about my experience was the Student Learning Center. I lived in the math lab and had great study groups. Everyone there really helped me get through my classes.”
After attending PBSC, Big Crow went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Florida Atlantic University. She is a mom of three boys, ages 11, 13 and 16, and works in finance at a nonprofit in Royal Palm Beach.
For more on Big Crow, visit her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jenmbigcrow7920