Monday, January 17, 2011

Alaska Native news roundup

A few topics/stories I've seen making the online rounds:

A Yup'ik Swan Lake
Too cool! The Alaska Dance Theatre, Alaska Dance Theatre School, Alaska Native Heritage Center and Eugene Ballet Company are collaborating on a revision of the classic Swan Lake ballet with Yup'ik storytelling and dance. I used to be skeptical of these kind of attempts, but several years ago I went to the Anchorage Symphony's collaboration with Native hoop dancing and flute music - AWESOME PERFORMANCE. I'm ready to see more mixin'! I hope it runs longer than this week!

Native corporations sue over polar bear decisions
This is being reported many places, and I'd love to see some polling of the region. For Pebble Mine, for instance, BIG difference between whether the people of the region support it, and the corporations of the region support it. I don't have a very informed opinion of this, outside of the documentaries and talking heads, but I certainly lean toward long-term wildlife preservation over immediate wants of commerce.

Lots of talk about Alaska Native suicide numbers
So, it seems like nothing new - the Alaska Native suicide rates are still horrible. I've even heard people talk about not bothering putting any more resources into stopping suicide if it doesn't seem to change the numbers. ADN has reported on it in multiple ways, the most recent a little revisit of their "People in Peril" series from 20 years ago. KTUU has done a few segments in just a few days, Alaska Newspapers, and many, many more, mostly due to the state's annual report that recently came out.

But let's not stop trying. IIt may seem like "the same thing over and over again" over the past 20 years." But over the past few years, I've been looking at research and case studies in suicide, especially suicide in indgenous populations. Here's the news I hope people also pay attention to:

1) The "science" of trying prevent suicide at a mass level is very, very new. Or rather, the only way it was done before not very long ago was through religious belief (suicide as a sin, etc.) The "answer" was never going to be simple, quick, or gauranteed the first, second, or hundredth round out. Twenty years may seem like a long time to be trying, but in the life of a disease, is but half a moment.

2) Is there a cure for cancer yet? I don't see anyone saying, after all this time, and all this money spent without a cure, MUCH longer, and many more billions spent than suicide prevention, that we should give up on our attempts at preventing cancer.

3) Suicide is not as simple as people would like to think. It is hugely misunderstood, and it is truly a disease, as are the many underlying factors leading up to it.

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