BEE HEARD: New report “Culture Forward” supports importance of culture in prevention

Culture Forward

CULTURE FORWARD: A Strengths and Culture Based Tool to Protect our Native Youth from Suicide. 

The John Hopkins Center for American Indian Health has partnered with the Casey Family Programs and the Center for Native American Youth to create a report about Native youth and suicide. The group worked together to conduct roundtables and interviews, and review publications, reports and guides on prevention and reduction of suicide in Native communities. The report is now out and it supports how important culture is to preventing Native youth suicide both on and off Native American reservations. 

In the Culture Forward report, U.S. Congresswoman from New Mexico, Deb Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna) wrote, “Our communities are resilient. We hold the power to reclaim our stories- past, present and future. Together, we can weave ourselves a safety net strong enough to endure the threats of our world today so our youth people know they are loved, needed and have a reason to live.”

This report is unique in that it was generated through listening sessions and interviews with people who represented different sectors of tribal communities. These included Tribal leaders, grassroot leaders working with Native youth on suicide prevention, Native youth leaders, two-spirit leaders working with two-spirit youth, elders and traditional healers, veterans, and military service members. 

The Southern Ute Native Connections Program will be using the five core themes that emerged from all the listening sessions and interviews of Native stakeholders to help further guide the efforts of the Southern Ute Native Connections Program on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. 

The five core themes in the report that guide Native youth suicide prevention are:  

1. Our networks harness belonging and help keep us safe.

  • Focus: Extended families create community connections; Community networks keep Native youth safe; Belongingness is a critical protective factor; and Programs that create, support, or extend networks build belongingness and reduce risks. 
  • This section hits home how important and different our values systems are to the western world when it comes to family and community relationships, “… Indigenous words for relationships are more detailed and precise than in English.” Supporting and re-establishing these relationships are crucial both suicide prevention and culture. 

2. Connections to our lands and Elders allow us to thrive.

  • Focus: Indigenous ways of knowing and interacting with the world are grounded in relationships to place, land, family and community; Connections to homelands and our communities inform our sense of identity and purpose; Elders are vital to transmit cultural knowledge; Programs that promote these factors through emphasizing traditional wisdom in connection to lands and communities are successful at prevailing suicide and promoting resilience. 
  • This reminds us of the natural connections we have to our ancestral lands and no matter where we are, we are always on indigenous soil. Our connection to all the elements and ecosystems is our connection to a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and respect. According to the report, “Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) of our peoples is also described in academic literature. TEK signifies those Native experiences of the world are spatially oriented and based on a strong connection to place and mindfulness of other individuals, plants and animals that share the spaces we inhabit.”

3. Traditional knowledge holds the keys to health and healing. 

  • Focus: Adolescence is a key time to develop positive cultural identities that can protect against suicide; our traditional knowledge, cultural practices and values strengthen resilience; Tribal communities successfully incorporating culture-based learning and activities support increased resiliency; Programs that promote these factors through emphasizing traditional wisdom in connection to lands and communities are successful at preventing suicide and promoting resilience.
  • We are reminded “that our ancestral knowledge provides the pathways to health and healing.” We hold the knowledge in our families, communities and in our genes. 

4. Native youth lead us to reclaim our autonomy and well-being.

  • Focus: Children are sacred and carry an important purpose in our lives and communities; our youth are strong, resilient and represent the future of our communities; Family-based programs that strengthen children’s social and emotional development reduce suicide risk among Native youth; Programs and policies that support youth development show our children their purpose and value in life. 
  • Without our children, would we have a future? In our traditional ways, the child is sacred and special because they are our future. They are the future holders of language, ceremonies, traditions, and storytelling. Creating space and opportunity for youth to participate, create change and lead some of these efforts is key in creating ownership, pride, and respect for all the core themes in this report. 

5. Self-determination empowers us to fight. 

  • Focus: Tribal sovereignty can be leveraged to address youth suicide in our communities; Research shows that self-determination can be a protective factor against youth suicide; Tribal leaders have an important role to play in addressing suicide prevention for Native youth.
  • We are reminded how important our role models and especially our tribal leaders are to these efforts. According to the report “Empirical research shows that perceived caring from tribal leaders is protective against suicidal thoughts for Native youth. Powerful stories from our youth coupled with research show the impact tribal leaders have in protecting our Native youth.”
  • Reclaiming and picking up where our Ancestors left off.

We know that western prevention efforts don’t effectively impact our Native communities because they were never made with us in mind. We are now entering an era of prevention where Native youth and communities are finding the support and resources to address suicide, mental health crisis, and substance use. The time is now for all of us, young and old, to pay respects to our ancestors for their sacrifices, to pick up from where they left off, and push our way forward so our future grandchildren have a healthier future. Not just any future but one that our cultural ways live on and forward. 

Culture Forward is a great resource for our community and those who work in programs that provide services, information, and support to our Native community on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. For more information or for a copy of this report please contact the Southern Ute Native Connections Program at the Behavioral Health Division 970-563-5700. 


A Strengths and Culture Based Tool to Protect our Native Youth from Suicide. September 30, 2021.

Are you ready to help create a drug-free community? Want to help and be a part of the change?

We are looking for community members and youth to join the Prevention Coalition tasked to reduce youth substance usage, eliminate mental health stigma, and start the discussion around suicide and prevention. 

We have monthly coalition meetings and workshops to help our community understand the real story behind alcohol, meth, opioids, vaping, marijuana, and other drugs in our community. We need your help! All meetings are held virtually. 

For more information, please contact Precious Collins, Native Connections Program Coordinator for more information 970-563-5700 or email


  • Southern Ute Health Center – Behavioral Health Division: NEW LOCATION AND PHONE NUMBER! 4101 CR 222, Durango, Colo. 970-563-5700. For local Native Americans. We are here to support mental health, substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery. Please call to schedule an appointment to talk to someone.  
  • Southern Ute Division of Social Services: 116 Capote Dr., Ignacio, Colo. 970-563-2331 or for local Native Americans needing assistance with child welfare needs and family support. 
  • Southern Ute Police Department: Anonymous Tip Hotline Do you have information about a crime? Please call 970-563-4999. This “Tip Line” was designed to allow you the ability to provide law enforcement with information, anonymously, if need be, regarding criminal, drug, or suspicious activity. The “Tip Line” is monitored around the clock by SUPD Investigators, but it DOES NOT replace 9-1-1 or the non-emergency police number 970-563-4401.
  • St. Ignatius Catholic Church: Pastor Cesar Arras, 14826 CO-172, Ignacio, Colo. 970-563-4241.
  • Ignacio Community Church, Pastor Randall Haynes 405 Browning Ave, Ignacio, Colo. 970-759-3633 
  • Second Wind Fund of the Four Corners: Believes that every child and youth at risk of suicide should have access to the mental health treatment they need. We match children and youth at risk for suicide with licensed therapists in their communities, 720-962-0706.
  • Women’s Resource Center: Creates personal, social, and professional growth opportunities for all women in La Plata County, 970-247-1242.


  • 24/7 Axis Crisis Line: SW Colorado 970-247-5245 or Text 741741.
  • Colorado Crisis Line: 844-493-8255 or Text “TALK” to 38255. You’ll immediately be put in contact with a trained counselor, ready to text with you about anything.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Has both an online chat and a 24/7 phone line at 1-800-273-8255 if you are thinking of suicide or need help for a loved one.
  • The Trevor Project: Seeks to serve LGBT youth, has a 24/7 suicide prevention line at 866-488-7386.

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