Lesson from Marysville Shooting: All Youth are At-risk

The tragic shooting rampage at Marysville-Pilchuck High School resulted in death of five youth.

The tragic shooting rampage at Marysville-Pilchuck High School resulted in death of five youth.


Two weeks ago Friday, on October 24, many lives were changed forever in the aftermath of the shooting in Marysville, Washington. Jaylen Fryberg, 14, a member of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington shot five fellow high schools before he turned the gun on himself in the Marysvillie-Pilchuck High School cafeteria.

Two of those shot by Fryberg were his cousins. One cousin, Andrew Fryberg, also 14, passed away last night. Another cousin, Nate Hatch returned home on Thursday.

The shooting involving American Indian youth is a chilling reminder American society is mired in violence.

Separate from video games and Hollywood movies, in reality there is no way to glamorize—or even justify—violence. I would argue video games and Hollywood should not attempt to do so.

What Jaylen Fryberg did was a dastardly deed that will forever live in the memories of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington. His actions have left a pang in the hearts of American Indians throughout Indian Country.

After Andrew Fryberg’s death was announced last night, the Tulalip Tribe released a statement that, in part, read:

“The Tulalip Tribes and Marysville will be forever changed as a result of the senseless and tragic incident that took place on the morning of October 24th and know that healing will not happen overnight.”

Fryberg’s actions were not the first to hit home among Indian Country. On March 21, 2005, the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota was the scene of a shooting rampage that left 10 people dead, including the shooter, a 16-year-old tribal member, who took his own life, including his grandfather’s.

In the Washington state shooting, several articles in the media mentioned that Jaylen Fryberg came from a prominent family within his tribe. It has been written Fryberg was being readied to be a leader within the Tulalip Tribes. He was popular student who one week before the tragic shooting had been on the football homecoming court. He danced the traditional dances of the Tulalip. He seemed to have much going for himself.

Then something drastically snapped inside of him that allowed him to choose the pathway of violence to seemingly correct whatever ills were troubling him.

Jaylen Fryberg was not on the “at-risk” youth list.

At this time, as law enforcement still work on its investigation of the shooting, tt would be presumptuous to speculate on what really happened inside Jaylen’s mind that caused him to snap and turn to violence.

For many years I have resisted using the term “at-risk” youth because it is a term used mostly to describe youth who are impoverished, parentless and mostly dark-skinned.

I argue all youth are at risk. Regardless of socio-economic status, regardless of family structure or regardless of skin color, all youth are at risk for tragedy or violence. It is not unusual to read about rich teens involved in drunk driving accidents because they were left home alone by themselves with a whole cabinet full of liquor without parental supervision. They are indeed at-risk youth.

In the aftermath of the Marysville tragedy, it is important for parents, grandparents, educators and mentors to talk to our youth about alternative pathways to violence.

We do know our youth are our future and we want them to live their futures where they become leaders of our tribal communities.

Prayers are needed for the families who lost their children at Marysville. Prayers are needed for the Tulalip Tribes to heal. Prayers are needed for Indian Country – where our youth, along with other youth, are all indeed at-risk.

Levi Rickert is the publisher and editor of Native News Online. He is a tribal citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.

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One Response
  1. Bill Brown 5 years ago
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