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The Lakota Foundation Invokes Response to Suicide Rates Among Teenagers on Pine Ridge.
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Huntington – LI, New York, Oct. 4th, 2009 – The “standing room only” capacity at the Cinema Arts Centre’s
early Sunday morning audience were treated to a rare event, “First Voices: Listen We Must”. The 4-hour special included music by the group Ghosthorse, Lakota dance, WOUNDED KNEE
a film by Stanley Nelson – followed by a discussion including a “meet and greet” breakfast. The panel of Lance White Magpie, Christine Rose
and Tiokasin Ghosthorse
gave examples of the conditions on Lakota reservations in the South Dakota with life expectancy, health, housing conditions and homelessness, transportation, water contamination, federal-state-tribal relations, scenarios of racism in what is now being called the “Mississippi of the North".
“People came from Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey as well as New York. The music had people connected completely. The film [Wounded Knee] was something we all should see and the discussion afterwards was uplifting”, said Jim Krivo, one of the organizers of WBAI-NY
“There has never been an attendance like this, as far as I’ve seen, at the Cinema Arts Centre”, many people were either “awakened” or “I couldn’t believe it” were more of the comments made by the pubic in attendance.
The benefit shed light on the Lakota adults and elders who are deeply concerned for youth living on the reservation today, with the High School drop-out rate at 73% and the teenage suicide rates at an “Alarmingly,... 10 times higher than the national average” among northern reservations, “90% all Indian teens who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental illness” said Senator Johanns of Nebraska, who testified at the S. 1635 – 7th Generation Promise: Indian Youth Suicide Prevention Act of 2009
on September 10, 2009.
Lakota youth face tremendous obstacles in their life. 90% of the population on the reservation lives below the federal poverty level and there is an unemployment rate between 85% and 92%. One-third of the homes are severely substandard, without water, electricity, adequate insulation, and sewage systems (Source: Indian Housing Authority). The Pine Ridge Reservation is home to approximately 40,000 persons, 40% of which are under the age of 18.
Tiokasin Ghosthorse, said=2 0during the panel discussion “children as young as 5 years of age commit suicide, which brings to mind the barriers of education which forms the backbone of a child’s mind. The education Lakota children receive within the presence of the American system is almost completely lacking in Lakota cultural education on those same reservations. While most reservations have suicide prevention grants, they offer a minimally oriented band-aid approach, which has not stemmed the rash of suicides since I was a teenager in the 70’s. A holistic cultural approach is needed that cuts through the barriers of generational trauma and goes to the root of the problem rather than the symptom.”
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