Time travel: #LaLoche 2009

In 2009, The Sasquatch, a spin-off of the progressive, Briarpatch Magazine, published a piece the regina mom wrote about youth suicide in La Loche, Saskatchewan.  Yesterday’s tragedy in the remote northern Saskatchewan Dene community, La Loche, prompted trm to remember that story.  And then, she learned that Premier Wall’s SaskParty government and its LEAN-thinking business initiatives helped to kill programs set up by the community for the community and had to repost it here.  So much sadness here.

 

Youth suicide “epidemic” ravages northern Saskatchewan

By Bernadette Wagner

About 40 teens have attempted suicide in the past 18 months in the northern Saskatchewan community of La Loche. More than half have died.

“It’s an epidemic,” says Laura Petschulat, a high school teacher at La Loche Community School. “They’ve lost hope.”

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) cites suicide as the leading cause of death among First Nations people between the ages of 10 and 24.

“When young people lose hope, suicide becomes a reality,” says Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Vice-Chief Glen Pratt. “Too many of our children experience tragedy in their lives and that injures the spirit.”

Pratt says the current system is set up to make First Nations fail. “Our traditional First Nations health system has been oppressed,” he says. “Western medicine is very tokenized toward First Nations. We need to find a way to give them strength and not label them as sick.”

“It’s tragic,” says Warren McCall, NDP critic for First Nations and Métis Affairs, referring to the high rate of suicide among Aboriginal youth. “It’s the cutting edge of what the province is doing wrong.”

Minister Responsible for First Nations and Métis Affairs June Draude declined to comment on this story. Draude is also the minister responsible for Northern Affairs.

On the Clearwater River Dene Nation just a mile outside La Loche, 70 per cent of the 1,400 band members living on the reserve are under the age of 18. In the village of La Loche, about 50 per cent of the residents are under 18. In both communities, many families live 10 or more to a house, some of which are substandard. Alcohol and drug abuse, physical and sexual violence and teen pregnancy rates are high. The welfare rate sits around 70 per cent.

It’s hard to find positive role models in a community that’s still coping with the legacy of residential schools and colonialism,” says McCall. “The community lacks the resources for positive change. There are hugely limited resources in the north.”

Vice-Chief Pratt says there are role models in every community but sometimes kids choose the wrong ones. Young people and elders don’t always connect the way they should.

There has got to be a revival of First Nations medicine,” he added.

Pratt says the FSIN is encouraging that revival. This past winter, it brought together 300 youth from across the province for a suicide prevention conference in Saskatoon. Survivors of suicide spoke about their “second chance at life.” Youth had opportunities to learn about the traditional ways from Elders and to share their own stories.

According to Pratt, the suicide prevention strategy in Saskatchewan lacks a co-ordinated approach. His organization is calling for a youth forum on the matter. “We need a strategy built by youth themselves and supported by partnerships with youth, First Nations elders, schools and the health system. We need to invite youth to circles,” he says.

Some suggest that northern development, including a road connecting La Loche to Fort MacLeod, Alberta, is the key to fixing the problems in northern communities, but Petschulat disagrees. “A lot of people here think that will only bring drugs and prostitution,” she says. “There are already too many problems here.”

Residents also wonder how development in the future will help the youth now.

“It’s hard for these kids to avoid gangs and drugs, alcoholism and abuse,” says one resident who asked not to be named. “They live with abuse, alcoholism, poverty and can’t escape it. Despite how bad it is, this is where the people they love live.”

NDP Health Critic Judy Junor wants to know what the Sask Party government is doing about the situation in La Loche. “What immediate programs are they putting in place to stop this cycle of hopelessness?” she asks.

Health Minister Don McMorris did not respond to requests for comment.

On World Suicide Prevention Day in September 2008, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Phil Fontaine called for a doubling of the number of suicide prevention projects taking place in First Nations communities. One hundred and forty projects are ongoing at the present time. La Loche is not currently a site for one of those projects.

In the meantime, Petschulat says that the only hope some troubled youth have is that someone will post a video featuring images of the youth and a favourite song or two on YouTube after their death.

“Still,” says Vice-Chief Pratt, “many young people are thriving despite the injustices their people face – poverty, racism, oppression. The stronger the spirit, the stronger the nation, the stronger the youth.”

c. 2009 Bernadette Wagner

Sidebar: Holistic health & suicide prevention

A federal government publication, Acting On What We Know: Preventing Youth Suicide in First Nations, suggests that prevention programs are most successful when they bring together health, school and community.

In First Nations communities where cultural traditions have been lost, “the development of programs to transmit traditional knowledge and values, usually by respected elders, is also a crucial component of any suicide prevention program,” the report suggests.

At their recent conference on health issues, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations held sessions on Shiatsu Therapy and the Bowen Method – two methods of healing which are more holistic than western medicine. Both are based in the belief that the human body has an innate ability to heal itself.

Shiatsu is hands-on, finger-pressure therapy, which has evolved from aspects of Japanese massage traditions, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western anatomy and physiology and works to release blocked energy in the body.

The Bowen Method stimulates a sense of deep relaxation, which acts on the nervous system to create metabolic equilibrium at the cellular level. This resets the autonomic nervous system and frees the body to find its own natural balance. By embracing not only the psychological or the physical, the treatments can work on the whole individual.

First Nations medicine is similar in that it also works on the whole individual by looking at the physical, the psycho-emotional, the cultural and the spiritual. According to FSIN Vice-Chief Glen Pratt, “The spiritual is the foundation for the other three. Once we become strong in spirit . . . we become very balanced in a healthy way.”

c. 2009 Bernadette Wagner

Advertisements

Round-up Ready Radicals*

I was rather charged up by the Joe (McCarthy) Oliver letter last week.  Though I don’t define myself as radical, I know some do simply because I think about and act on issues.  To me that’s engaged citizenship; to them it’s radicalism.  Says a lot about our society, doesn’t it?  Citizens become engaged and they are dismissed, written off, red-baited by their families, communities and elected officials.  Isn’t that what fascism is about, creating an Other to despise?  Would they rather I park my brain and my butt and remain silent until there is no one left to speak?

I don’t do that kind of silence.  I do love the silence of nature, which is never really silent, and the silence of meditation, which is also never really silent.  But instead of being silent on this issue of national importance, I’m going to own the radicalism with which I’ve been pegged and pass along a list of links which deepen and further the dialogue the Minister of Natural Resources has begun.

First, an article by Andrew Nikiforuk, the man who has been on the trail of the Big Oil and Gas boys for a long time.  In this piece, he offers important bits and pieces from a 30-page report on the Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal by J. David Hughes.  One observation Nikiforuk makes:

Hughes’ damning report also posits a simple question that Canada’s media routinely neglects: why does the Canadian government support a proposal to export oil to China when nearly half the country (Quebec and Atlantic Canada) is nearly 100 per cent dependent on declining or volatile reserves from the North Sea and the Middle East? (The study was funded by the author and by Forest Ethics with intervenor money for the Gateway hearing provided by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.)

Both the article and the report are well worth the read.

If you haven’t already read the connect-the-dots piece at desmogblog, you really must.  It exposes the interconnections among the ethical oil (sic) folks, the oil moneymen and the Prime Minister’s Office in one fell swoop.  Follow that up with a look at the work of the good folks at Pacific Free Press and with a very detailed look at ISPs and web developers and media managers connected to the aforementioned groups by the folks at deep climate.  It’s excellent research which, I think, warrants further investigation, perhaps by the authorities.

Finally, take a boo at what the Common Sense Canadian has to say about the recent appointment of a former HarperCon insider to the Christy Clarke inner circle in BC.  In Clark, Harper, Enbridge Taking Suicidal Risks With BC’s Future CSC says:

I don’t want to deal with economics here but simply the wilderness of the province of British Columbia.

We must understand that Enbridge has an unbelievably bad track record. Since 2002 their American subsidiaries alone racked up 170 leaks, and the company itself had a staggering 610 leaks from 1999-2008, including a 2007 explosion in Minnesota that killed two men and brought it $2.4 million in fines – this in addition to a 2003 gas pipeline explosion that killed 7 in Ontario. More recently there is the Kalamazoo River spill in July 2010 which will never be cleaned up.

I leave it thusly:

Is there any set of circumstances, other than an assurance of God Himself, under which you would approve any pipeline going through our precious wilderness?

As I’ve said elsewhere, this pipeline will go ahead over my dead body.

 

—–

* With thanks to Dave at The Galloping Beaver for inspiring the title of this post.  Are we all round-up ready now?

 

thereginamom dot com

the regina mom feels wealthy these days. She was fortunate enough to be a recipient of an Emerging Artists Award from the Canada Council for the Arts last spring.  There’s no scramble for contract work and there’s a bit of extra money around her house.  So she got her hubby to blow twenty bucks on the thereginamom.com domain name.  And when the rewrite of the children’s literature manuscript is completed — which had better be soon because the end of the grant period is fast approaching — thereginamom.com will get a makeover.

the regina mom has spent some time over the past few months writing and contemplating her writing life.  Blogging is one place where various pieces of her life weave together.  So she’s looking forward to again crafting blogposts.

Be forewarned, dear Reader, the regina mom likes Niki Ashton.

Later today, Niki Ashton, the Member of Parliament for Churchill, will announce her candidacy for the Leadership of the New Democratic Party of Canada!  It’d be great to have a woman from one of the Prairie provinces as Leader of the NDP — as the next Prime Minister of Canada!

Niki’s from northern Manitoba.  Take a Northern woman from a Prairie province to the House of Commons and you’ll see more than a little bit of Amazing!   Niki has demonstrated that time and again and could do it in one of four or five languages.  Unafraid of standing up to speak Truth to Power, Niki Ashton has risen in the House to challenge the Harper regime on important issues such as healthcare and housing, infrastructure and transportation, education and economic development, support for residential school survivors and the North and its People.  American film-maker, Michael Moore, noticed her work.  As did The Huffington Post.

So, ya.  A Northern woman from a Prairie province!  Niki Ashton is sure to make the NDP Leadership race an interesting one!  the regina mom is watching.