What Does Historical Trauma Look Like? The Native American Youth Suicide Rate

Historical trauma sounds like an academic term. It does not hit you in the gut. Not like teen suicide does.

But teen suicide is one of the real world ways that historical trauma shows up in Native American communities. Consider the following data from a Huffington Post article last November: Native American Youth Suicide Rates Are At Crisis Levels:

Suicide looks very different in Native communities than it does in the general population. Nationally, suicide tends to skew middle-aged (and white); but among Native Americans, 40 percent of those who die by suicide are between the ages of 15 and 24. And among young adults ages 18 to 24, Native American have higher rates of suicide than any other ethnicity, and higher than the general population.

The issue got high profile attention last fall when the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a report with new data. Coverage included the Huffington Post, Time magazine and  Medical Daily. The reports included heart-wrenching stories, such as this one from the PBS News Hour:

When Joaquin Gallegos was 5-years-old, his uncle took his own life.

For two decades, more than 30 of his family members and friends did the same, part of a trend sweeping Indian Country where suicide among people age 18 to 24 far outpaces the national rate, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Consider the impact it would have had on you as a youth if even two of your friends and family members had committed suicide. It would have been devastating

Why is the suicide rate so high for Native youth? Continue reading

Memorial Set for Medicine Bottle’s 1865 Hanging on Nov. 11; This Day in History: Native American Languages Act of 1990

Many people know about the 38 Dakota men hung at Mankato, Dec. 26, 1862, following the Dakota-U.S. War, the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Less well known are the two Dakota men — Medicine Bottle and Shakopee (aka Little Six) — who were hung at Fort Snelling nearly three years later for their participation in the war. They had fled to Canada but were kidnapped and handed over to U.S. authorities.

Filmmaker Sheldon Wolfchild, Medicine Bottle’s grandson, plans to hold a memorial for Medicine Bottle on the 150th anniversary of the hanging on Wednesday, Nov. 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will be held at Fort Snelling, near the car turnaround (where the hanging took place). (Note: Go to the Fort itself, not the visitor’s center area where the concentration camp remembrances are held.)

Also that week, Wolfchild will hold film screenings and lecture at the Fort Snelling Theater from Sunday to Tuesday (Nov. 8-10), noon – 4 p.m. He will show both his recently released documentary: Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code and a shorter documentary on the Mdewakanton Dakota creation story. Wolfchild will lecture on “Where did the bodies go?” reflections on his efforts to find Medicine Bottles remains. Research shows that the bodies of both Medicine Bottle and Shakopee were quickly unearthed and removed for medical research.

This Day in History: Native American Languages Act of 1990

On this day in history, October 30, 1990, Congress passed the Native American Languages Act. According to Wikipedia: the act repudiated past policies of eradicating Indian Languages. The Act said that the United States “declares to preserve, protect and promote the rights and freedoms of Native Americans to use practice and develop Native American Languages”. Wikipedia goes on:

Congress found convincing evidence that student achievement and performance, community and school pride, and educational opportunity are clearly and directly tied to respect for, and support of, the first language of the child.

The Native American Language Act of 1990 has been a counterbalance to the English only movement and has been the catalyst for bilingual education on the reservations.

 

Dream of Wild Health Talk Summary Available, Tar Sands Protest, and More!

Diane Wilson, author and executive director of Dream of Wild Health, spoke to Healing Minnesota Stories in April to a standing-room only crowd. A summary of her talk is now available online. Here is one excerpt:

The most important thing that I learned at Dream of Wild Health is that food is at the center of our culture. Our songs and ceremonies have been associated with how we plant, how we grow, and how we share our food. For us to maintain a strong cultural identity, we have to pay attention to our food and our relationship to the land. As we deal with historical trauma, one of the most profound ways we can do that healing work is through our relationship with the land.
Click on the link above for the full summary. Video coming soon.
By the way, if you are still doing some spring plant shopping, Malborg’s Garden Center is hosting an entire week of sales as a fundraiser for Dream of Wild Health. It runs through Saturday May 30 so there is still a little time left. Details here.

U.S. Gets Possessive About Native Autonomy

Steve Newcom, co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, is adept at breaking down the subtle ways the federal government uses language to undermine Native sovereignty. His latest analysis is found in the article: “Maintaining U.S. Status Quo in Name of ‘Enhanced Participation’ at UN,” published in Indian Country Today.

In the article, Newcom talks about a recent statement by the U.S. government to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The government said it supports enhanced participation at the United Nations “for representatives of its federal recognized tribes, which have a nation to nation relationship with the United States.” (Newcom’s emphasis on the word “its”.) Newcom notes:

“Its” tribes? Really? In English grammar, the word “its” is a possessive. Thus, on the world stage the United States has officially characterized “federally recognized tribes,” as “belonging to” the United States as U.S. “possessions.” Such terminology is clear evidence of the domination system.

In other words, if the U.S. government believes these are “its” tribes, then there really is no nation-to-nation relationship.

For the full article, click on the link above. (Steve Newcom has been a featured speaker at a Healing Minnesota Stories forum on the Doctrine of Discovery.)

Tar Sands Protest

The Indigenous Environmental Network is organizing to participate in the June 6 Tar Sands Resistance March in downtown St. Paul, “the largest anti-tar sands event ever in the region,” according to its Facebook page. “Let’s march together as Indigenous communities to fight for Mother Earth and our future.” The agenda is:

  • 10am- Water Ceremony, Lambert Landing, corner of Shepard Road and North Sibley Street
  • Noon- March from Lambert Landing to the State Capitol Lawn
  • 2pm-Rally & Performances at Capitol

New Federal Legislation Proposed to Boost Native Language Revitalization

According to Native News Online Net, U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Montana), Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico), Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) have introduced a bill to preserve endangered native languages. The article said:

The Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act creates a new grant initiative to establish or expand native language immersion programs.  The grants will support the revitalization and maintenance of tribal languages while increasing educational opportunities for  American Indian and Alaska Native students.

Click on the link above for more.

Locally, Native leaders have worked to create and sustain funding for Dakota and Ojibwe language revitalization in Minnesota. HF303/SF202 provide critical ongoing funding. The bill passed on the House Floor Monday, May 18,but did not get a vote in the Senate before adjournment. Efforts are underway to get the bill on the Special Session agenda.