By Dirk Lammers
Christopher Cuestas with the National Violence Prevention Resource Center spoke Thursday to a gathering of tribal members and legal and law enforcement officers during a "tribal listening conference" hosted by U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson.
Cuestas said that once a gang emerges in a community, the group establishes itself by recruiting and indoctrinating members. A gang during this stage will dovetail the community's risk factors, which for Indian reservations include drugs, alcohol, poverty and unemployment--the same ones linked to teen suicide.
To prove your toughness, you join with a gang. Gangs practically exist so youngsters can flaunt their machismo to each other. And if you can't prove yourself in a gang, you give up. You commit suicide because you feel worthless and hopeless.
For more on the subject, see Tribalism = Solution, Not Problem and Gang Culture in Indian Country.