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They're talking openly about it now
5 May 2005

Jenny Eagle and Senator Byron Dorgan

With a broken heart, Jenny Eagle of Fort Yates shows North Dakota U. S. Senator Byron Dorgan photos of her son May 2 at a Senate Indian Affairs Committee field hearing in Bismarck. Ted Eagle Jr., age 16, took his own life in January. A reported 10 suicides occurred on Standing Rock in 2004; the origins of the cluster trace as far back as 1997. Knowing about Standing Rock and after learning about the prevalence of suicide clusters on reservations elsewhere, Dorgan convened the hearing. "We have to begin looking at this problem square in the eye and talk about solutions," Dorgan said during the hearing. "It's a very serious problem. I'm no longer comfortable being quiet about it." The suicide rate among American Indian teens in the Great Plains is 10 times higher than the national average. At Standing Rock, social stigma and fear of contagion have limited open discussions. Dorgan plans a follow-up hearing set for June 15 in Washington, DC.


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