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Tribal Affairs

Fort Belknap Tribes Declare State Of Emergency Over Suicide Crisis

The Seal of the Fort Belknap Reservation
Josh Burnham
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
Fort Belknap Indian Reservation Announces Suicide Crisis

The tribes on the Fort Belknap Reservation declared a state of emergency last Thursday over what the tribal president says is a suicide crisis.

Andrew Werk Jr. President of the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes, says that last week, he went to the wake of a high schooler.

“It’s getting to the point where it’s almost on a daily basis,” says Werk Jr.

 

This Fourth of July, he said he had to bury his nephew.

 

He said that most suicides, attempted and completed, have been among 18-22 year olds.

 

"It's kind of becoming a blur. It's just too many," he said. "We're in a crisis."

Montana has the highest suicide rate in the nation and the demographic with the highest rate in the state is Native Americans.

The Fort Belknap Indian Council wrote in its emergency declaration that an uptick in suicides began a year and a half ago, a trend that the Council attributes to historical trauma from past federal policies and increased drug use.

President Werk Jr. says that he’s sent the declaration to the Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the State of Montana. He says he hopes they’ll respond by sending funding for more behavioral health specialists

Olivia Reingold is YPR's Report For American corps member.