The downward spiral of hopelessness brought upon by the oppressive governmental policies of relocation, confinement, and forced assimilation, is tampering the potential and holding down the spirit of hope in our peoples lives.
The Indigenous People of today have inherited a cultural trauma which was committed against our ancestors. From the colonial period continuing into the twenty-first century, torture, terror, sexual abuse, massacres, systemic military occupations, removal from our ancestral territories, removals of Indigenous children to military-like boarding schools, forced sterilizations, as well as other archaic methods of forced assimilation has been the norm.
This historic trauma and ongoing traumas of today, such as rapes, drugs, alcoholism, and suicides have resulted in the loss of hope for many of our People and in many of our Communities. This sense of hopelessness has manifested itself in a 62% higher suicide rate in our People as compared to non-Indigenous people. The relocation and subsequent isolation of our people, combined with a diminished sense of hope for a better tomorrow, has led to a cultural disconnect which continues to traumatically effect our youth. A devastating 40% of Indigenous People who die by suicide are youth between the ages of 15 and 24.
Many of the issues we face in our Communities are economic based. It is not uncommon to find an unemployment rate on reservations well over 50% and a poverty rate at over 25% (1 in 4 people). Although the Indigenous People represent less than 2% of the population in the U.S., we make up 8% of those who are homeless. These issues are often produced and compounded by alcohol and drug abuse: Almost 20% of all Indigenous deaths are alcohol-related, compared with less than 5% for non-Indigenous people. The health and well being consequences of these factors are staggering: Life expectancy for the Indigenous People in North America is over 5 years less than the general population. Indigenous women are raped, abused, stalked and murdered more than any other group on the continent.
This Indigenous downward spiral shows how the lack of hope defines a seemingly endless plight for our People: