WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — Everyday Native, a free online teacher’s resource, celebrates its first year of bringing Native youth voices to 4thto 12th graders with a powerful new video called “Patricia’s Story.” It features Salish Indian Patricia, who at 17 shares the diversity, joys and hardships of living on the Flathead Reservation in Montana. Acclaimed narrator and actor Peter Coyote, whose voice brings Ken Burns’ PBS and National Geographic documentaries tolife, introduces Patricia’s story.
Patricia speaks directly to viewers about how her family connects her to her Salish culture, what motivates her to be a leader and what she hopes to do in her life by becoming a youth mentor and environmental and treaty lawyer. The authenticity of Patricia’s voice, like all Everyday Native content, reveals Native youth’s stories as primary sources for teachers across subjects to introduce students tomore accurate, respectful narratives that combat harmful stereotypes.
Everyday Native: Education Helps Prevent Suicide
In the most poignant part of the video, Patricia tells about attending the funeral of her 10-year-old cousin who died as a result of suicide. This reflects disturbing recent national statistics: a 139% and 71% increase in suicide amongst Native girls/women, and Native boys/men, respectively from 1999 to 2017.
Everyday Native is a vital antidote to this trend and already a big success, with 200 percent user growth since first quarter to first anniversary. By developing empathy in 4thto 12th grade students,it helps reduce racist bullying which contributes to Native youth suicide. Teachers also appreciate how Everyday Native enhances many subjects, including social studies, English, history and art. They say it offers them tools they need to create cross-cultural understanding that’s essential for 21stCentury education.
August 1st marks Everyday Native’s first anniversary. Since its launch, teachers, school districts, State Indian Education staff and parents have embraced Everyday Native’s ability to create critical engagement through activities that allow students to reflect on the experiences of Native youth.
Cross-Cultural Collaboration: A Long Friendship
Everyday Native was born out of the collaboration between non-Native documentary photographer, Sue Reynolds, and Victor Charlo, a Salish Indian poet-playwright and venerated member of the Salish Kootenai Tribes. Since 2018, this new website has been increasingly adopted in classrooms and has received praise that includes Montana Arts Council, California Educator, NPR-Montana, Wyoming Public Media, Native News Online, a U.S. Congressman and four U.S. Senators.
Reynolds and Charlo’s first collaboration included a photo-poetry book, Still Here: Not Living in Tipis. Both Reynolds and Charlo’s works strive towards healing racism and have appeared in national and international outlets.
Suicide is a pressing issue for Native youth.
The suicide rate for Native youth is 2.5 times the national rate in the U.S. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for Native youth ages 10-24, and the 3rd leading cause of death for Native youth ages 5-14. (1)
A 2019 CDC study found that suicide rates amongst Native girls and women have risen 139% and for Native boys and men have risen 71%, when comparing all ethnicities in the United States. (Table 1 & 2)(2)
Systemic barriers and oppression still contribute to racial bullying and lack of culturally sensitive services and education for Native youth.
In 2018, ProPublica found that Native youth in a Montana school district were pushed into programs with minimal resources, received less emotional support and faced discriminatory discipline practices from staff which contributed to Native youth suicide. (3)
A 2018 CDC study showed that Native youth have less access to mental health treatment and diagnosis compared to Caucasian peers, in part because 70 percent of Native youth in the 18-state sample reside in rural communities where there is already lower availability of services. (4)
The same CDC study found that differences in “alcohol use, interpersonal problems, and access to mental health treatment” in the Native community may be “symptoms of disproportionate exposure to poverty, historical trauma, and other contexts of inequity.” (4)
Everyday Native is creating social change through education by featuring Native youth’s voices and stories.
The result of the first cross-cultural collaboration between non-Native and Native artists and educators, Everyday Native features images, stories and video of Native youth. Using primary sources, it inspires students to reflect on and discuss the experiences of 13 Native youth and families from the Blackfeet, Crow, Lakota, Nez Perce, and Salish tribes, and relate it to their own. Everyday Native is reviewed by Lakota, Salish, Cree and Dakota educators and non-Native teachers from Montana, Idaho, and California.