Saturday, July 5, 2008

Suicide Epidemic on Rosebud Reservation

Mission - The Tribal Chairman has called for a "war on suicide."

A tribe staggered by a crush of youth suicides opened a two-day summit Tuesday bent on finding solutions.

As a family buried their 19-year-old son in Rosebud - the seventh suicide on the Rosebud Reservation this year - tribal Chairman Rodney Bordeaux asked state, federal and tribal officials to help fight the epidemic."

We need to put a stop to this," Bordeaux told those gathered on the Sinte Gleska University campus. "We need to begin to do something to get our youth to declare a war on suicide."

Officials at the conference talked of problems youth face on a reservation mired in unemployment, alcoholism and dysfunction in families where children miss school to look after siblings or incapacitated parents.

Part of their hopelessness was highlighted by numbers from Todd County High School showing that of 256 freshmen who began in the school four years ago, only 56 graduated in May.

"What are we doing?" said Bryan Burnette, who works in student information support for the school. "We're trying to increase our staff, especially for counselors. We're applying for grants. And we're moving to block scheduling, so students spend time with less teachers, and more with the teachers they have."

But families also talked of children with straight A's and active in extracurricular activities who are hanging themselves.

The tribe has put together a suicide task force to address the issue. It has created a video and booklet for presentation at reservation schools.

Read it all here.

Fr. Tim Fontaine has called for intercessory prayer for the Sioux. Read his call for 40 days of prayer and fasting here.


Alice C. Linsley said...

I urge all readers to pray for and write letters in support of the Burnt Thigh People of the Rosebud Reservation.

TLF+ said...

Alice - you are a blessing.

You're also a good student of culture. It is significant that the Tribal Chairman called for a "war on suicide".

The warrior (along with the hunter) is a traditional male role in the matrilineal L/Dakota culture. This role was largely destroyed (some men have been able to find it via the U.S. military) by White expansion and control.

The prayer effort needs to take seriously the "warrior" images of God in the Bible, along with their transformation in the New Testament (fighting with weapons that are not of this world; Christ the rider on the white horse, who conquers evil with his word).

The destruction of the tradtional roles is certainly a contributor to meaninglessness and suicide.

Alice C. Linsley said...

No doubt, Father. The loss of traditional patterns of life which bring meaning can lead to this. Yet suicide is not regarded as a noble way to die among most tribal peoples. This epidemic is due to a spiritual sickness.