Suicide Rate Among Native American Youth Cause for Alarm

I was reading an article this morning about the suicide rate among Native American youth.  In some communities the rate is 9 to 19 times above the national average.  It is so shocking that numerous federal grants have been awarded to try to find the root causes.  Stephanie Woodard, on the website 100 Reporters.com, indicated that almost all of the 566 tribes in the United States have been affected.  It is an epidemic that should cause all Americans to pause and take note.

The discovery of America is wrongly attributed to Christopher Columbus in our history books.  There have been records of the Olmec civilization being here well before Mr. Columbus.  Also, there is evidence of the Vikings and maybe an Asian influence here on the North American continent.  What is indisputable is that there were indigenous people living here well in advance of the seafaring people mentioned above.  Before we became the United States a large amount of tribes lived and prospered here.  It seems like we upset a way of life that was in tune with nature and respectfule of natural resources.

When the Pilgrims arrived many of the problems began.  Many Indians were killed by diseases bought to shore by the visitors from Europe.  The Native Americans, in spite of some attacks early on in the process, extended a helping hand to the visitors.  Whatever caused the individuals who arrived here to begin to then covet the land led to the creation of the United States.  War, displaced tribes and land grabs resulted.

It was recounted in the article that the loss of ancestral lands still affect Native Americans.  I cannot imagine the monotony of living on a reservation.  I had my own struggles growing up in what was considered a ghetto.  One feels no allegiance to the country at large and hopelessness seeps into ones everyday existence.  I was able to attend college and expand my horizons.  On the other hand, our prisons are filled with youth and adults who made decisions that did not fit in with the success path that we would all like to achieve.  Rather than kill ourselves we inflict harm on others and pay the price.

Alcoholism is rampant among the Native American population.  This disease is prevalent in many other communities also.  On reservations it seems like the problem is magnified.  Many of us look at he successes of casinos and think that a rising tide helps all ships.  There is amazing wealth in Connecticut and  Mississippi where Native Americans were given casino licenses.  I think also that they are tax free.  Is gambling enough to restore pride to a wounded part of the population?  Apparently not.

Some families were affected by multiple suicides.  It almost seemed to be in the DNA.  I hope that the grants awarded to these communities can help to lessen the number of youth choosing to end their lives.  There can be a positive future with community support and role models.  Maybe reservations can become a thing of the past and Native Americans can be fully integrated into society.  Their plight has not been mentioned by any presidential candidates as far as I know.  The high suicide rate needs to become a national issue until some solutions are found.
  

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