Building Tribal Capacity to End High Rates of Suicide

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TITLE: Building Tribal Capacity to End High Rates of Suicide

WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and

WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and

WHEREAS, in 2009 the Senate on Indian Affairs Committee held a hearing on “Youth Suicide in Indian Country” and described the situation as a crisis and called upon the federal government to establish policies, programs and funding to focus on the suicidal behavior in tribal communities; and

WHEREAS, for more than 35 years suicide rates for American Indians and Alaska Natives between age 10 to 34 has been 70% higher than the general U.S. Population; and

WHEREAS, suicide is the second leading cause of death for Native Americans; and

WHEREAS, the rate of suicide among youth on Indian reservations is three times greater than any other youth population and we often face cluster suicide situations; and

WHEREAS, suicide combined with other social problems such as sexual assault, substance abuse, limited economic opportunities, and low academic achievement, all contribute to the destruction of Native American families, leaving behind a trail of untold sadness, violence and grief; and

WHEREAS, tribal communities are isolated, experience high rates of unemployment, accidental deaths, ennui, alcoholism, social issues, and limited or no law enforcement and mental health services; and

WHEREAS, the Indian Health Service and other agency funding for mental health services have faced cutbacks and even elimination, leaving Native American communities without treatment facilities and services; and
WHEREAS, federal and state agencies continue to develop laws policy, regulations and programs to address critical situations; and

WHEREAS, tribal nations have a spiritual and sacred responsibility that consists of laws and teachings held in trust by our elders; and

WHEREAS, national research and studies conducted by federal agencies and Native American communities share a common finding that generational suicide impacts are connected to trauma from past United States Federal termination policies and agreements forced upon Tribal Governments such as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and the Termination, Dawes Act, Termination Policy, and these federal movements that focus on the termination of culture, rights and way of life; and

WHEREAS, tribal leaders continue to challenge and find solutions with federal agencies to address the need for new policies, laws and agreements that can restore and support a quality of life that has sustained the survival of indigenous people across the nation for generations; and

WHEREAS, tribal nations have invested in the development of various partners, programs and funding opportunities, such as Native Aspirations Program and the Sweet Grass Pine Ridge Program, as well as other state/federal programs, school districts, religious programs, organizations and various communities with the intention of implementing a tribal way of life that values tribal, traditions and customary teachings and builds resilience of Native children; and

WHEREAS, tribal nations continue to support one another by sharing various programs that recognize the fine balance of youth being raised in two worlds of traditional teaching and western education as tools that incorporate social technology for networking, information gathering and sharing, and thus a way that respects the young people’s ways to reach out to in the best way possible and to help youth express themselves with today’s technology.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, NCAI urges the Congress of the United States of America to provide full funding of the Indian Health Service and other agency programs to levels that provide protection and prevention for a more vibrant way of life; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, NCAI will work through collaboration and partnerships with tribes, organizations, local, state and federal government to continue to restore culture and community balance to secure the future of Native children; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, this partnership will work to build recognition by local, state and federal agencies to address jurisdictional challenges and develop and implement tools and policies to provide tribal communities the capacity to address suicide and behavioral issues affecting tribal communities; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, this partnership will also work collaboratively to continue to heal tribal communities, by encouraging tribal nations to the restore cultural traditions and value systems, to incorporate traditional practices and values into schools, to protect spiritual, and ancestral places, and to preserve and repair healthy environments; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.



The foregoing resolution was adopted by the General Assembly at the 2013 Annual Session of the National Congress of American Indians, held at the Cox Business Center from October 13 - 18, 2013 in Tulsa, Oklahoma with a quorum present.


Recording Secretary