Gyasi Ross: An indigenous brother lost to tragedy of suicide

"I was watching SportsCenter the other day and some news hit me right between the eyes: Junior Seau, Samoan phenom, committed suicide. Seau was always one of my favorite players for a few different reasons: 1) Seau was Samoan, and I consider all Polynesians to be Indigenous brothers and sisters, having had similar experiences to many Native people here on the mainland, 2) He was a grown man named “Junior,” and I always thought that only happened in Indian communities, so I appreciated his Indian-ness in that way, and 3) when I was in school, some people thought I looked Samoan and would call me “Seau,” even though I couldn’t remotely play anything like him.

Instantly, the news brought me back to the many suicides that I’ve known about in Indian Country; it sadly made me realize that perhaps our connection is even stronger than I thought. I started thinking about epidemic of suicides amongst our own people.

See, we once had buffers that protected us, and future generations, from giving up hope. We had a strong and beautiful spiritual tradition that caused us—even in the face of genocide, rape, murder, loss of tradition and slavery (yes, some Natives were slaves)—to never lose hope. Our ancestors were geniuses who set up powerful spiritual boundaries that we were not supposed to step over lest bad stuff happen to both the individual as well as the collective."

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Gyasi Ross: Junior Seau, Suicide and Spirituality (Indian Country Today 5/6)

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