In the Anchorage Daily News, Evon Peter calls for indigenous people to bond together and act in generosity as a means to combat suicide.
Peter calls suicide a “reflection of social suffering,” and one that is so difficult to bear because it is not an accident or forced upon someone — “it is clearly preventable.”
“We often navigate personal trauma, communal dysfunction, unresolved grief, family losses, and addictive behaviors, while having to also deal with oppressive and assimilative parts of imposed systems (governance/education) and behaviors (racism/indifference) from a dominant culture,” Peter wrote. “After generations of intentional actions to break down a people’s spirit and take control away from them, it is no surprise that social illness takes hold.”
Rather than dealing with personal discord individually, Peter encourages Alaska Natives to find solace in one another. “There is great power in reaching out to another person in your community,” Peter wrote.
Peter related spending the day with 50 seventh to 12th graders in the gym, playing games and learning the history of their people. “We talk about the rapid cultural change we are experiencing, tell stories, and discuss the many challenges we face,” he wrote. “They are happy to share their knowledge, concern — and also laugh with one another.”
Peter’s message is that all people need someone to talk to, because it establishes a sense of community rather than personal isolation. “Let’s all be a part of the solution by reaching out and coming together.”