February 10, 2007

Social fragmentation leads to suicide

Life and Death on the Rez

Social Breakdown of Tribal Culture Revealed in Youth SuicidesIn a recent medical paper published by BMJ on the "Ecological Study of Social Fragmentation, Poverty and Suicide," studies revealed that suicide rates are more strongly associated with measures of social fragmentation than with poverty.

"We've lost so much of our identity as a culture," said "Kim," another Santee tribal member who wished to remain anonymous.

Kim said the youth are the ones suffering the most from the social fragmentation that is prevalent today among most Native American tribes.

"At one time in our culture, everyone raised the children. It wasn't just a single mom, or a dad, but the whole tribe raised that child. There was always someone there," Joe said. "Now, people think if they feed their kids, then they're OK. But at one time, everybody fed that child with everything--with love and affection and by talking to them. But somewhere down the road, we lost that."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Why Americans Commit Suicide.

1 comment:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Basically, what Native societies in this region practiced was the extended family or clan situation, and writerfella was lucky enough to find himself immersed in that very situation upon returning with his immediate family from California at age 7. His maternal grandmother, Magdalene Paddlety, more or less was the queen bee around whom all the families orbited. One single great house in Anadarko, OK, saw as many as four families living together with Magdalene, with eight or more others passing through daily to eat or to visit or to bring gifts to Magdalene. It was busy, noisy, crowded at times, and simply wonderful. In later years, after Magdalene's passing, writerfella's own mother, Agatha, assumed that role and The BatesMotel became the orbit point for the families, much as before though only the Bateses lived in the house. Once again, it was busy, noisy, crowded at times, and again just wonderful. Over time, as the various aunts and uncles slowly passed away, the families became more divided and scattered but still every holiday or birthday was like a family reunion. Most especially, if a family member was near death, the family gathered from hither and yon with as many as possible assembled at the hospital or the home of the individual, making death a shared experience as well. After the deaths of writerfella's father and mother in '91 and '92, the practice seemed to fall away with funeral attendance becoming the main reason for the family to gather. It seemed to have disappeared, that is, until writerfella's younger brother David lay dying in hospital of autoimmune Polyangiitis nervosa in June of 2005. Suddenly, the entire family assembled from all over Oklahoma and from neighboring states, with some cousins flying in from California and Washington State. It was astounding and refreshing to find all at once that the principle still existed, that of gathering to share the experience of the death of a family member. It only seemed to have fallen aside and it means we all learned our lessons well when we were growing up as a Kiowa clan, that of The Spider. Quite interestingly, there have been no violent deaths in our families and certainly no suicides, so we are more than just lucky. We are blessed...
All Best
Russ Bates