August 21, 2010

JR Redwater battles suicide rate

Laughter and Suicide

Accidents and suicide are the leading causes of death among young Native Americans. And brazen humor may get to the heart of the problem.

By Mary Annette Pember
The fight against the high rates of suicide among Indian people has found a seemingly unlikely champion in Lakota comedian J.R. Redwater. JR performed recently at Cankdeska Cikana Community College on the Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota as part of their suicide prevention program. A member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, JR’s take-no-prisoners approach to poking fun at reservation life has a poignant ring of first hand experience. Clearly, as my auntie would have said, “he’s been dragged across a few floors,” in his life.

Born and raised on the rez, he tells the audience, “Hey, I’ve been through it all. Drugs, alcohol, sexual abuse. I’ve been abandoned and physically abused.” The topics might seem too dark and inappropriate for tonight’s audience of youngsters and adults, but JR knows that these rez kids, like himself, have been through it all. His message is simple yet profound. The act of publicly telling his truth and laughing in its face sends the message that Indian people can be proud and successful no matter what has happened to them.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see All About JR Redwater.

Below:  "Comedian J.R. Redwater brings serious hilarity to Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Ft. Totten, North Dakota." (Mary Annette Pember)

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