Indian reservation suicide outreach program to end


Associated Press

PINE RIDGE, S.D. (AP) - The only suicide prevention outreach program on a South Dakota Indian reservation where at least 15 young people have killed themselves this year will end in December due to lack of funding, a tribal spokesman said Friday.

The federal grant that funding the program on the Pine Ridge reservation isn’t being renewed due to a problem with the application, Kevin Steele, spokesman for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, told The Associated Press.

The program has cost about $480,000 per year for three years. The money helped pay for outreach workers responding to emergency suicide calls.

Donna Salomon, the tribe’s legislative liaison, said the tribe will seek reconsideration on the funding but has no backup plan for dealing with the reservation’s suicide problem.

Suicide has been a persistent problem on the reservation, but a string of suicides among adolescents has shaken the impoverished community.

Tribal leaders, school officials, students and parents point to a host of problems, including bullying on social media and at school, troubled family lives and a sense of hopelessness due to lack of economic opportunities and high unemployment rates.

Somewhere between 16,000 and 40,000 members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe live on the reservation, which was the site of the Wounded Knee massacre, in which the 7th Cavalry slaughtered about 300 tribe members in 1890. At over 2 million acres, the reservation is among the nation’s largest. It includes the county with the highest poverty rate in the U.S., and some of the worst rates of alcoholism and drug abuse, violence and unemployment.

Nearly 1,000 suicide attempts were recorded on the reservation between 2004 and 2013.

Most people live in clusters of mobile homes, some so dilapidated that the insulation is visible from outside. At night, trailers are surrounded by seven or eight rusting cars for the 20 or 25 people living inside.

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