Among youth ages 5 through 14, the Native American suicide rate is 2.6 times the national average. And, moving into later teen years and adulthood, the disparity is even greater.
According to Congressional testimony today, 17 teens have killed themselves in recent months in Cheyenne River. These suicides are typical of the pattern developing among American Indians. Many of them take the form of suicide pacts, where one by one, youth take their lives when their name comes up...in such general depression as to join such a pact in the first place.
Julie Garreau, executive director of the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, comments:
Some of these suicides were young men who had made a suicide pact with one another. They drew numbers, and decided to hang themselves in that order. One by one their families found these boys, often hanging in their homes, as their number came up.
These deaths are part of an overall trend -- a trend given brief headline attention when 16-year-old Jeff Weise, a Chippewa Indian living on the Red Lake reservation in Minnesota, killed 10 people at school, including himself.
Garreau referenced this in her testimony to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
We are heartbroken that it may have taken an incident like the school shootings at the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota to bring national attention to the crisis our children are facing in Indian Country, but are so relieved that someone is finally hearing our voicesThis is an issue that needs powerful intervention, spiritual care.
There is a lot going on here, behind this depression. There are deep issues of honor/shame culture among people with historical residuals of great sin and brokenness, facing current poverty, deprivation and hopelessness.
In other words: great need of confession, healing and restoration...
[Note: After comments by Walking Star, I realize that I need to make clear here: By 'confession, healing and restoration' I mean 'Confession to the Native American peoples' for the sake of healing and restoration. See: comments. Ok? Thank you! Loy]