The suicide rate for Indigenous men across North America, especially within Canada, is disproportionate to the rest of the population and racism may very well play a huge role in accessing services within the present health care system. Due to colonial history, traumas as well as social determinants of health, inequalities exist that often result in an attitude of Indigenous peoples’ being perceived as “less than”, or having to accept things that non-Indigenous peoples would not. The system privileges non-Indigenous people and criminalizes Indigenous peoples, particularly men. Can this be why many Indigenous men do not receive help?
These issues were brought to light in an article published by the New Statesman, which addressed the “public health emergency” involving high suicides rates among Indigenous people in the US by reporting in detail on the “painful losses” of one family in Alaska. As other reports documented, suicides have also devastated First Nations communities in Saskatchewan, Canada. The Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation declared a state of emergency after a rash of suicides, one including a young father. Ochapowace First Nation also lost four Indigenous men to suicide.
Independent news coverage of the suicide crisis in Indigenous communities helps to frame the issue in historical terms, against the backdrop of institutional, systemic racism in Canada and the US, which affects Indigenous people’s wellbeing in myriad ways.
Although suicide among Indigenous youth has received some degree of news coverage, the plight of adult Indigenous men has been overlooked. The suicides that occurred on Ochapowace First Nation involved men who were older than 20-years and fathers to young children, not youth. A male indigenous voice is desperately needed in order for Indigenous peoples, especially in Canada, to restore healthy nations.
Devon Heinen, “Nobody to Call: The Plight of Indigenous Suicide in Alaska,” New Statesman, January 10, 2020, https://www.newstatesman.com/2019/12/nobody-call-indigenous-suicides-alaska.
Claudette Commanda and Louise Bradley, “We Must Not Forget Men When We Talk about Indigenous Trauma,” Globe and Mail, June 16, 2019, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-we-must-not-forget-men-when-we-talk-about-indigenous-trauma/.
Allison Martell, “Deaths, Bad Outcomes Elude Scrutiny at Canada’s Indigenous Clinics,” Reuters, October 24, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-canada-health-insight/deaths-bad-outcomes-elude-scrutiny-at-canadas-indigenous-clinics-idUSKBN1X3152.
Student Researcher: Danna Henderson (First Nations University of Canada)
Faculty Evaluator: Patricia W. Elliott (First Nations University of Canada)