Steve Russell: Indian mother takes on county over inmate suicide
"An Indian hanging himself in the drunk tank is seldom big news in Indian country except to his relatives. When Jay Spotted Elk hung himself while facing misdemeanor charges in Sheridan County, Nebraska, his mother decided not to stand for it. Arlyn Eastman/Broken Nose sued the county and several individuals who might have been able to prevent the suicide if they had been properly trained and motivated.

The lawyer who took on this case, Maren Chaloupka, hit a mother lode of evidence that was good for the lawsuit but bad for the Indian community in Nebraska:
* Twelve inmates had attempted suicide in the same jail, all but one Indian.
* The inmates had attempted suicide repeatedly.
* One inmate literally killed himself the day after he told corrections officers that he no longer wanted to live.

When nothing was done in the face of all this, it was bad for the Indians who might be in the jail from time to time but it made proving that the county had failed to take suicide precautions the proverbial slam dunk. It became possible to prove that Jay Spotted Elk’s last night on earth was not unusual in the history of Sheridan County, Nebraska. According to a report in the Scottsbluff Star-Herald, Spotted Elk threatened suicide before he even got to the jail. Yet his belt was not removed and he was not closely watched."

Get the Story:
Steve Russell: In memory of Jay Spotted Elk (Indian Country Today 8/6)

Related Stories:
Steve Russell: Brown people should stay away from Arizona (5/24)
Steve Russell: Don't head to Arizona without your 'papers' (4/28)
Steve Russell: Tribes stronger standing together (11/13)
Steve Russell: Women behind all life's successes (10/15)
Steve Russell: Tribal governments must step up (7/3)
Steve Russell: Support for Native Hawaiians (6/16)
Steve Russell: Fighting the fake Indians in tribal court (6/5)
Steve Russell: Ward Churchill faces a third jury (5/28)
Steve Russell: Advice for a younger version of me (3/27)
Steve Russell: Accepting Obama on tribalism (2/27)
Steve Russell: Indian Country ripe for change (12/30)
Steve Russell: Indians slighted in every election (9/19)
Steve Russell: Being indigenous good for the fakers (9/5)
Steve Russell: Everybody knows everything (8/1)
Steve Russell: Family violence docket an ugly one (6/27)
Steve Russell: The Indian view on climate change (5/30)
Steve Russell: Odds and ends and current events (4/21)
Steve Russell: Addressing ethnic frauds (4/4)
Steve Russell: Struggles in an Indian education (3/14)
Steve Russell: Cherokee Nation and assimilation (2/29)
Steve Russell: Cherokee Nation breaks its word (2/8)
Steve Russell: Indian voters a voice for change (2/1)
Steve Russell: The Indian law Hall of Shame (1/11)
Steve Russell: Social capital in Indian Country (12/28)
Steve Russell: Cherokee constitutional crisis (12/14)
Steve Russell: The price of 'sovereignty' (11/23)
Steve Russell: Getting along in Indian Country (11/9)
Steve Russell: Life lessons from a poker game (10/26)