A Native American Perspective
By Lois Two Bears, Survivor, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
I believe that suicide is viewed differently among Native Americans in a way that suicide is definitely not "normal." Native Americans do not like or want to talk about suicide believing that if you talk about suicide, you will cause a suicide to happen. Most do not want to talk about how that person died. Their cause of death is not really talked about. I believe the families try to minimize their loved one's death by "covering it up" and saying their death was caused by an illness or something else. I've experienced a death by suicide where the family wanted horseback riders to lead the hearse in but community people didn't want that because they were saying that was "glorifying" suicide and so the family gave in to the negative remarks and didn't have the horseback riders. In our specific culture, the Sioux culture, I have never encountered any rituals regarding a death by suicide. But the stigma is definitely there. This includes how people talk about the family instead of approaching the family and asking how they are doing. And not talking about suicide and not saying the name of the person who died by suicide. I personally don't understand that because people do talk about any person that died "normally" and even saying their name. This doesn't make sense to me. Some religious leaders believe that if a person dies by suicide, their spirit roams the earth forever, lost, until the times comes when they were supposed to die, naturally, or by an illness. There are some Catholic priests,here on Standing Rock, who believe that people who died by suicide should not have a Catholic burial which I think is wrong but I believe that's part of the stigma.
I have been affected by suicide. My son, Brad, who was 16 at the time of his death, died by suicide in 2001. It's been ten years but it only seems like yesterday. My life has definitely changed by his death. I love my surviving children even more and constantly worry about them, even though they are grown and have lives of their own. This includes my grandchildren.
I truly believe my son came to visit me through a butterfly on a day which was supposed to be his 18th birthday. And it seems every time I think of my son, missing him, a butterfly appears! I find that truly amazing!