Oglala Sioux Tribe president declares state of emergency in response to recent suicides
PINE RIDGE, S.D. — President Julian Bear Runner of the Oglala Sioux Tribe declared a state of emergency on the Pine Ridge Reservation after a recent increase in suicides, attempts, and threats relative to years of high rates of suicides in the community.
The Pine Ridge Reservation has seen an increase in suicides over the last few weeks by younger people, with four in the last two weeks. According to the Oglala Sioux Tribe Suicide Prevention program, between January 1 and August 17, there have been nine suicides among youth and adults aged 14 to 32.
The Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety reports 177 total suicides attempts and 168 suicide threats since the beginning of the year.
The Pine Ridge Reservation has seen continued struggles for years.From December 2014 to June 2019, 43 individuals died by suicide on the reservation. Over 850 people attempted suicide and over 1,300 had the thoughts to pursue.
The president attributes some of the recent instances to the pandemic.
The reservation has been under travel restrictions and stay at home orders since the beginning of the pandemic, which Bear Runner says has been very difficult for many people. Tribal members were even advised not to attend the 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, in order to keep member and elders safe.
In regards to mandated solitude, Bear Runner says he understands and has experienced the struggle as he was recently released from a month-long suspension and 14-day quarantine.
“During that time, it was mentally challenging, and I experienced something I hadn’t experienced in a long time,” said President Bear Runner. “It was very trying and it was very hard mentally to separate yourself from society and from your family and to seclude yourself.” said President Julian Bear Runner, Oglala Sioux Tribe.
In the declaration, Bear Runner calls on the federal government to provide “sustainable, consistent, and perpetual funding” to assist in suicide prevention efforts. He also “demands that the previously established Tribal-Suicide Task Force be reenacted immediately to develop and implement strategies for combating the high rates of suicide” and “provide a report within 30 days” to present to the United States Congress for action.