Monday, October 9, 2023

From the MindSite News team

Good Monday morning! In honor of Indigenous Peoples Day, we are not publishing a regular newsletter, but instead, some background on the day and a look at an article examining the rethink that mental health organizations have made of their practices toward Indigenous people. We’ll be back tomorrow with the Daily’s usual wrap-up of the latest mental health news.

So what is Indigenous Peoples Day?

Indigenous Peoples Day, set on the second Monday of October, serves as a counter-celebration to the official federal holiday of Columbus Day, and a way to honor and celebrate Native Americans’ history and culture – and recognize the challenges they continue to face.

Native Americans perform tribal dances at the 113th Annual Arlee Celebration Powwow July 3, 2011 in Arlee, Montana. Photo: Radoslaw Lecyk, Shutterstock

As the National Museum of the American Indian has noted: “Columbus was not the first foreign explorer to land in the Americas. Neither he nor those that came before him discovered America – because Indigenous Peoples have populated the Western Hemisphere for tens of thousands of years. European contact resulted in devastating loss of life, disruption of tradition, and enormous loss of lands for Indigenous Peoples in the Americas. It is estimated that in the 130 years following first contact, Native America lost 95 percent of its population.”

Despite the killing, enslavement and forced relocation of indigenous peoples throughout the U.S., Canada and Central and South America, Native people are still standing and working to ensure that their culture isn’t forgotten.

On Monday, Oct. 9, Indigenous peoples across the U.S. honor and celebrate their community and also teach the lasting effects of colonialism. It has not yet become a federal holiday, although advocates in Congress are working to do that. But today, according to the Pew Research Center, four states — Washington, South Dakota, Vermont and Maine — as well as Washington, D.C. – recognize the day as an official holiday honoring Native Americans.

President Biden, for the third year in a row, issued a proclamation to “honor the perseverance and courage of Indigenous peoples, show our gratitude for the myriad contributions they have made to our world, and renew our commitment to respect Tribal sovereignty and self-determination.”

Today, according to the Associated Press, as many as 3,000 people are expected to travel to Alcatraz Island to mark its 19-month occupation by Native Americans, beginning in 1969. The AP article also previews other activities and celebrations taking place today.

We also want to share a look at this article that appeared several weeks ago in Science News that examined how professional mental health organizations – in this case the American Psychological Association – are reexamining their history of harmful practices and the benefits of traditional ways that indigenous cultures have employed to support each others’ collective spiritual and emotional wellbeing.


An apology to Indigenous communities sparks a mental health rethink

Summarized from an article in Science News by Sujata Gupta

Western psychological organizations are finally recognizing the critical nature of culturally appropriate care for Indigenous people and their communities – and apologizing for the harms they supported in the past. The American Psychological Association did both in a report earlier this year. The country’s leading psychological group acknowledged its past support for abusive assimilation efforts like forcibly removing Indigenous children from their families and placing them in Western boarding schools. And it pledged to learn about and value culture-critical approaches to care in the future.

“Psychologists working with Native clients should respect, honor, and include Native strategies for healing,” the report said.

The APA also acknowledged that Western, data-driven “quantitative” research on effectiveness doesn’t work well for this kind of treatment. Indigenous methodologies are more similar to what is known in the West as “qualitative” research, which is based on nuanced, in-depth interviews (and has long played second fiddle to statistical analyses that produce easy-to-measure results).

Indigenous world views have a strong focus on harmony between people and the planet. Culturally appropriate treatment approaches recognize the powerful role that history plays in shaping health and well-being that has led American Indian and Alaska Natives to report serious psychological distress 2.5 times as often as the general population and to alcohol poisoning death rates that are five times those of the general population.

Indigenous psychology is about “looking at the whole person − the mental, the physical, the spiritual, the emotional − within the context of colonization,” said Suzanne Stewart, a psychologist at the University of Toronto and member of the Yellowknife Dene First Nation in Canada.

–Don Sapatkin


If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.


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She migrated from Oaxaca to California at 10. Now she helps others make the transition

Odilia Romero, second from right, got a tribute from Lizzo for her work. Via Twitter

Odilia Romero was 10 years old when she came to California from the foggy highlands of Oaxaca, the state in southern Mexico that is home to her indigenous Zapotec people. She had to learn a new culture and language as well as a sense of belonging. She did all that and she thrived, reports the good-news website, Good Good Good. Eventually she and her daughter, Janet Martinez, founded CIELO, (Comunidades Indigenas en Liderazgo or Indigenous Communities in Leadership), a social justice organization that helps other immigrants.

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The push to “Indigenize” mental health care for Native people

KOSU Indigenous affairs reporter Allison Herrera. Photo via Twitter

The mental health crisis that has made suicide the Number 3 cause of death among young people aged 15 to 24 is especially acute among Native Americans. For Blu Cornell, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, the problem is aggravated by the lack of Native therapists and the distrust many Indigenous people feel with traditional mental health services. “There’s a lack of mental health resources that are made available and specifically cater to Indigenous people,” Cornell told Allison Herrera of NPR affiliate KOSU. 

Keep reading…

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