The suicide problem on the Pine Ridge Reservation demonstrates the absence of hope on South Dakota Indian reservations.
That is the message delivered to Congress this week, as C.J. Clifford, member of the Pine Ridge Tribal Council, told the United States legislators about the devastating consequences of a broken system that relegates the proud Lakota to high unemployment, dim economic prospects and the indifference of a racially biased system.
Since the calendar turned to 2015, 14 members of the tribe between the ages of 12 and 24 committed suicide and that barely begins to describe the depth of the problem.
According to Clifford, 176 more young Natives attempted suicide with approximately 230 more contemplating killing themselves.
The statistics provided by the Indian Health Service demonstrate the urgency for radical solutions in South Dakota, where generations of racial bias and mistreatment at the hands of the state is beginning to have profoundly adverse affects.
“We are struggling,” Clifford told Congress this week according to Think Progress. “We need the resources to get out in front of the problem.”
While Lakota People’s Law Project is heartened that the Department of Energy is dedicating nearly $300,000 to the Department of Education to help fund counselors and mental health experts, we believe it is merely a band-aid that covers a much deeper wound.
We have worked with the Pine Ridge Reservation to beginning setting up their own independently run Child and Family Service programs in order to stem the tide of child seizures by the state of South Dakota. Despite the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, South Dakota takes nearly 740 children from their Indian homes annually, in most cases due to “neglect”, which in the case of Pine Ridge is often a conflation of neglect and poverty.
If we are to truly participate in the healing of these badly traumatized nations, we must first recognize the extent to which Caucasian society contributed to their present problems. Once an official acknowledgement is made, there must be solutions put in place, not the least of which is to restore the ancestral Black Hills to the Lakota people.
Economic development must also occur. The Lakota People’s Law Project will continue to advocate fiercely for Pine Ridge and all the tribes in South Dakota.
Please help us in our quest by donating here. We need all the help we can get.