Health | National

Fort Peck Tribes still struggling with high rate of youth suicide

The Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Montana drew national attention last year when five children committed suicide and 20 more attempted suicide.

The Indian Health Service declared the crisis over after spending 90 days on the reservation last summer, helping the tribes address the situation. But two more children have killed themselves and 20 more have attempted suicide since October.

"We're at a loss," said Larry Wetsit, a traditional spiritual leader and former tribal chairman, told the Associated Press.

Youth on the reservation say drugs, gangs and bullying contribute to the high rate of suicide and suicide attempts. Elders believe a loss of traditions also leads youth to consider suicide.

"The tribes were contained on reservations, and systematically their culture, the way of life, the federal government attempted to destroy this," Raymond White Tail Feather, another former chairman, told the AP. "When you do that to a people, what comes about is hopelessness."

In December, the tribes implemented a new criminal charge that allows officers to detain someone who has threatened to commit suicide. The charge has been enforced six times in cases of teens, a tribal prosecutor said.

Get the Story:
Indian youth suicide crisis baffles (AP 3/20)