September 11, 2006

The suicide stereotype

Work just begins to stem Indian suicidesAs I listened to both Dorgan and Eagle Shield, I kept thinking of my yearly stay on the reservation. I keep thinking about the Lakota people who participate in the Sundance ceremony. They are strong, spiritual people who provide guidance to their children and work to help others.

Yet, Standing Rock won't be known for their spiritual leaders and the tenacious people who survived the uprooting and devastation of late 1800s and early 1900s. They risk being stereotyped with terms such as suicide, self-destructive and mentally ill because of the public exposure of the issue.

So, I understand why some of the tribal leaders hesitated to expose the suicides and suicide attempts to the public eye. It is another stereotype that we will have to counter, Eagle Shield said; Indian people have suicide as an option to life, the public will say.

4 comments:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
This article indeed covers an issue that is problematical. I only can say that, mostly, I am too busy writing ever to consider any such 'option.' When my late brother David (who succumbed in 2005 to a rare but devastating autoimmune condition, Polyangiitis nervosa) was in college, he took a freshman course called "Man And The World." Eventually, the course dealt with the topic of suicide and the text mentioned that Native people had one of those always outlandishly large potentials and percentage rates for suicide. As David was the only Native freshman in a class of 150, the instructor fixed on him and asked, "Mr. Bates, as a Native American, have you ever considered suicide?"
Rightly, David felt put upon and even moreso because the entire class was looking right at him. The sardonic sense of humor taught to us by our mother as a self-defense came into play. So, he answered, "I'm not really sure. But if it ever did, I'd probably tell myself there's an awful lot of beer in this world I haven't tasted yet."
David brought down the house and the instructor later must have thought better of trying to pin him down again.
For the most part, on the more serious side, I would have to say that our early teachings of the Kiowa way impart that there is no honor in taking your own life. That became the central theme in my endlessly-reprinted SF story, "Rite Of Encounter."
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
This article indeed covers an issue that is problematical. I only can say that, mostly, I am too busy writing ever to consider any such 'option.'
When my late brother David (who succumbed in 2005 to a rare but devastating autoimmune condition, Polyangiitis nervosa) was in college, he took a freshman course called "Man And The World." Eventually, the course dealt with the topic of suicide and the text mentioned that Native people had one of those always outlandishly large potentials and percentage rates for suicide (read: poverty, illiteracy, alcoholism, child abuse, illegal drug usage, inhalant usage, etc.). As David was the only Native freshman in a class of 150, the instructor fixed on him and asked, "Mr. Bates, as a Native American, have you ever considered suicide?"
Rightly, David felt put upon and even moreso because the entire class was looking right at him. The sardonic sense of humor taught to us by our mother as a self-defense came into play. So, he answered, "I'm not really sure. But if it ever did, I'd probably tell myself there's an awful lot of beer in this world I haven't tasted yet."
David brought down the house and the instructor later must have thought better of trying to pin him down again.
For the most part, on the more serious side, I would have to say that our early teachings of the Kiowa way impart that there is no honor in taking your own life. That became the central theme in my endlessly-reprinted SF story, "Rite Of Encounter."
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'
NOTE: the 1st time this was submitted, it became lodged on the writer page and did not show up on the main page. This is a re-send and, if BOTH wind up there, it is a glitch and not an echo -- RB

Rob said...

Hmm. I'd say it was semi-racist, or at least stereotypical, of the professor to single out your brother for questioning.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Hmm, happened almost at every college I ever attended. But then again, I was well-equipped by parents who taught that the best way to deflect racism or bias was to turn it back on the purveyor and leave everyone laughing at him (or her). Mostly, it made them think twice or even thrice before they tried it again. That was the best part, making them THINK...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'