Tribes impacted by youth suicide to appear at Senate hearing

Youth participate in a healing camp on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo by Cindy Giago

Leaders of two tribes that have been affected by youth suicide will testify at a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing on Wednesday.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota declared an emergency earlier this year after nine young people -- including a 12-year-old -- took their lives over a six-month period. More than 100 attempted suicide since December.

The Red Lake Nation also has been affected. The suicide rate on the county that encompasses the reservation is the highest in the state, according to the Minnesota Health Department.

The experiences of the two tribes are common across Indian Country. According to the White House Native Youth Report, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives ages 15 through 24 and their rate of suicide is 2.5 times higher than the national average.

The problem is particularly acute for young Native males. According to the report, their rate of suicide was by far the highest among all Americans ages 15 to 24.

Wednesday's hearing takes place at 2:15pm in Room 628 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building. The witness list follows:
The Honorable Robert G. McSwain
Acting Director, Indian Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C.

The Honorable John Yellow Bird Steele
President, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Pine Ridge, SD

The Honorable Darrell G. Seki, SR.
Chairman, Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, Red Lake, MN

Teresa D. Lafromboise, Ph.D.
Professor, Developmental and Psychological Sciences, Graduate School of Education, Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Committee Notice:
Oversight Hearing on "Demanding Results to End Native Youth Suicides" (June 24, 2015)

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