Letters to the Editor (November 2010)

Desperate for Services

Finally there is coverage (“Spotlighting Native American Issues,” September News) of our indigenous people, who are so desperate for services.

The reservations are structurally, socially and psychologically bereft and in turmoil. People are suffering and there is little help in addressing core issues. There are caring people who help, but real assistance is not there. Left to their own devices, they fail miserably due to lack of experience and needed support from outside the reservation. Then the victims get blamed.

I am working on a documentary about teen suicide at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. On reservations in the Dakotas, Wyoming and Montana, the teen suicide rate is reported at 150 to 300 percent greater than in the rest of America.

Let’s work toward getting needed assistance to the Native American people. Social workers, educators and medical personnel can truly make inroads on this extremely challenging situation.

Please see my website to see more information about my work.

Leslye Abbey, LCSW, CASAC
Bellmore, N.Y.


What Are the Solutions?

America’s “Indian problem” has yet to be addressed and atoned for in the same way we have tried to redress the internment of the Japanese or the sins of segregation. Yet in some ways, what was done to the Native American people was more heinous and almost succeeded in the extinction of their culture. So what are the solutions?

  • The Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies “was founded to provide scholarships for American Indians and has grown into one of the most respected centers in the nation for academic advancement and study of American Indian issues related to social work.” The center is affiliated with the Warren G. Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. This is probably the most desirable solution, but is undoubtedly the most expensive.
  • We need to develop more practicum opportunities on reservations. They should be paid by federal funds, perhaps from the U.S. Public Health Service. Likewise, social workers who work on reservations for two years after graduation should have their student loans paid for, similar to the arrangement doctors have.
  • Perhaps NASW can develop a collaborative relationship with the nonprofit American Indian College Fund, and future Native American social workers will be forthcoming.
  • A mandatory one-hour social work course on Native American issues seems warranted. It would be especially meaningful if this could be taught by Native Americans or persons who have a deep knowledge of the issues involved.

Warren Lind, LCSW, ASW-G
St. Louis, Mo.