Red Lake: Two grim takes

After a fallow period, the troubles of the Red Lake Indian Reservation are making headlines again.

On Sunday, the Strib finally took notice of the teen suicide epidemic at Red Lake. Reporter Paul Levy begins by recounting the story of a 16-year-old straight arrow named TeAnn Lyons who hung herself without warning a year ago. Levy then delves into sociology and ugly stats behind the phenomenon. (There were 69 reported teen suicide attempts on the reservation last year, three of which were successful). The money quote comes from Dr. Craig Vanderwagen, chief medical officer of Indian Health Service in Rockville, Maryland:

Is there something different about depression with Indian people? Look at the risk factors: You have the trauma of generations of parents dealing with depression and self-medicating with food or alcohol. Add to the mix isolation, poverty and racism. That's an explosive combination. And then these kids are exposed to the Internet and TV and see a world that doesn't reflect the reality of the life they're living.".

Then today, Salon.com published yet another profile of the now-notorious school shooter, Jeff Weise. Kimberley Sevcik's Reservation for Death was originally intended for Rolling Stone, but evidently was deemed too bleak for that publication.

Describing Red Lake as "a ghetto in the country, camouflaged by towering evergreens and shimmering lakes," Sevcik covers a lot of familiar territory. She also bungles a few facts regarding Red Lake's peculiar legal status. But those interested in Indian country will still find it worthwhile to sit through a Salon day pass commercial, if only for Sevcik's telling description of an encounter with a friend of Weise's, a troubled teen named Jace Hixon:

He had the slouchy, unhurried gait of a kid with an image to uphold. Hixon has two felony counts against him, one for assault with a weapon, the other for concealing stolen goods. He's not scared of getting locked up, though -- his cousin has been in prison and he says it's a cakewalk if you're an Indian. "Natives run the prison, so everyone is scared of us," he says. "We got a reputation for being crazy."

Hixon is in some kind of gang, though he wouldn't divulge his affiliation. He doesn't really want be a gangster, but he feels he doesn't have much choice. It's a family thing -- his cousins, his uncles, they're gangsters, too. "When you grow up with it, man,... " he says, his voice trailing off. The drugs, too, are hard to avoid. Where Hixon lives now, a neighborhood called the West End, is crack central. "Sometimes I feel endangered, living there," he says. "All kinds of people going in and out of there. Shootings. I'm scared for my life sometimes, you know?"

Read the rest here.

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