Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Towards an Understanding

“The reason why Aboriginal youth kill themselves at a rate six times higher than the overall population is to stop the pain and hopelessness that result from being subjected to colonization.

"You can’t understand Aboriginal suicide without looking at colonization. We, as Indigenous people, must realize that we did not have sky-high suicide rates before the European invasion (contact is too clean a word for what actually happened).

"When Canadian society says we’re sick that’s like a psychopathic killer complaining to someone he’s tried to strangle repeatedly that she should do something about the marks on her neck and see a psychiatrist about her recurrent nightmares and low self-esteem.”

-- Richard Bull, “Sweetgrass Coaching”

I don’t know what else it could be.

It’s not like we are all mentally unstable, or that we are taught to yearn for death, or anything in our culture makes us more prone to it.

There is a dark current that reaches out from time to time and drags some of us under.

I remember that in my childhood my schoolmates and I would whisper about the best methods for killing yourself with a horrid fascination. Hanging was often discussed.

I can’t say if this is still true. But it seems to be one of the methods of choice.

When you are in the depths of despair then choosing life seems so pointless. When you cannot envision a future, what is the point of continuing?

These are questions many indigenous children and adolescents ask themselves. I resolve to be there to try and tell them there are futures, there are different pathways, there is something to hold on to. Our culture and our traditions hold the key, and with them in place we can go forward. We just have to walk the warrior’s path to get there, and even though the way forward is not easy and fraught with hardship and pain, it will get better.

Because it has to, dammit. Not just for myself, but for all those beautiful children I know.