Suicide is a tragedy that ravages our society. The state of Montana ranks in the top five for the suicide rate, per capita, in America. Suicide in Indian Country, in speaking of our Indian youth, is not anything new. My fight began in 1972, when I lost my first Indian student. It's been around five decades that I know of.
The good Indian educators kept many notes on this suicide topic in Indian Country. The Office of Public Instruction has data. The Montana Historical Society will have Information. Networking is what we called it in the "old days." The information is out there. One doesn't want to reinvent the wheel, as our society tends to do.
The process of grieving has been around a long time. We lose a loved one. Denial, then I called it "fog," then one gets angry, then hopefully, acceptance. Many things can go wrong during these stages. Alcohol, drugs, that sort of thing. How do you feel when losing someone or something you loved? One grieves!
What if? You were Catholic and couldn't go to church anymore? We are taking your religion. Could not speak your language. Family? Where are you taking my parents? United States boarding schools. Scottish? You can't practice your culture; we won't let you even dance! Language? No way. We will teach you English. Land? Gone. Small pox? Wiped out 6,000 Blackfeet. I hope you get the picture.
Suicide, alcoholism in Indian Country are symptoms of grief, of loss. American Indians lost everything 200-plus years ago. Accurate accounting of American Indian history is a huge problem. Our libraries are inundated with inaccurate Montana Indian history.
Everyone grieves differently. American Indians got hit pretty hard in 200 years. We still grieve.
I have personally weeded out more books in libraries across this great land. John Wayne stuff: "The Lone Ranger Rides Again"! Except in Corvallis, Montana, where Helen Eden and I took care of that problem decades ago. Helen was my librarian when I put "my time" in at Old Corvallis Road.
Donald A. Wetzel Sr.,