Lakota teen suicide crisis addressed by Michigan/South Dakota musicians: Concert raises money for America’s oldest Native American domestic violence shelter and to battle alarming suicide problem on Rosebud Reservation
Hoping to stop teen suicide and domestic violence, South Dakota residents and Black Hills visitors opened their hearts and wallets Sunday evening during a free benefit concert for the country’s first Native American domestic violence shelter and its many projects including ending the shocking number of recent teenage suicides on the Lakota Rosebud Reservation.
The concert at the Custer Lutheran Fellowship church featured northern Michigan and Black Hills musicians and raised about $1,000 for the White Buffalo Calf Woman Society (WBCWS) in Mission, S.D. The funds will be used for preventing domestic violence, sexual assault and teen suicide.
Family string band White water and duet Duo Borealis, both from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, played a wide range of folk music including a “twist” on Amazing Grace that stirred the emotions of the crowd.
The Michigan groups were joined by popular local singer Roxanne Sazzue of Fort Thompson, S.D. who performed several songs and opened the show warming up the crow for the visiting musicians. the connection between. The three acts became one and performed “I Will Fly Away.”
The WBCWS was founded 30 years ago by current director Tillie Black Bear who closed the concert by singing a traditional Lakota song in native tongue that captured the hearts of the audience.
The WBCWS serves all battered women and children as it fights family violence, sexual assault and teen suicide.
The Lakota Rosebud tribe has more teen suicide attempts than and other American Indian reservation in the United States, Black Bear said.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe recently declared a teen suicide “State of Emergency” on the Rosebud Reservation.
Over the past two years, more than 600 attempted suicides and 15 suicides have occurred on the Rosebud Reservation – most involving teenage males.
Poverty, depression, a lack of work, drugs, alcohol and other social problems are among the reasons for the alarming teen suicide problem on the Rosebud reservation, Black Bear said.
A recent report by the U.S. Justice Department outlined an increase in violence against Native Americans.
The Michigan groups traveled 1,000 miles to put on the free benefit concert, and the WBCWS is over 220 miles from the Custer church where the concert took place.
While those involved in the concert live long distances from each other, organizers said they are close on battling domestic violence, teen suicide and sexual assault.
“The connection between Custer and the Rosebud reservation is once again open and strong,” said Black Bear.
The pastor of Custer Lutheran Fellowship church said the concert has renewed his congregation’s connection to the WBCWS and the Rosebud Reservation.
“We share in the goal of eliminating violence against women and violence in all of our families,” said Rev. Dave Van Kley. “We are also strongly committed to reconciliation between native and non-native peoples and hope that this concert was a small step in that direction.”
The Michigan groups performed at the request the Turtle Island Project and its founder Rev. Lynn Hubbard, a Munising, MI pastor who is a friend of the Lakota tribe and the Custer church.
The Turtle Island Project promotes respect for the environment and the Native American culture.
Rev. Hubbard said the WBCWS “does important work at a critical time by creating ways to help end the teen suicide crisis at the Rosebud Reservation and by continuing its many programs to help victims of domestic violence.”
Organizers said about 75 people attended the concert, a lower number than they had hoped possibly due to other summer events scheduled for the same night in the area. The crowd and the musicians shared stories about the Lakota reservation and social issues addressed by the WBCWS.
“It was like being in our own living room with some friends,” said White Water lead singer Dean B. Premo of Amasa, MI.
“Domestic violence, no matter the community, is a human travesty,” said Premo, founder of the White Water family band that has been performing together for nearly 30 years. “Addressing this problem at grass roots is an effective approach and White Water and Duo Borealis were happy to assist in a small way.”
Black Bear and Rev. Van Kley both thanked the crowd for donating $1,000 and plan to make the concert an annual event.
For more information on the bands and others involved in the concert here are related websites:
White Buffalo Calf Woman Society:
Custer Lutheran Fellowship:
Folk musicians White Water, Duo Borealis:
Rosebud Tribe website:
U.S. Department of Justice report: “American Indians and Crime” report:
White Buffalo Calf Woman Society, Inc.
“Domestic Violence Is Not A Lakota Tradition.”
Serving Battered Women & Children Since 1977.
Shelter & Safe Home Available for Emergencies
Tillie Black Bear, director
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Women’s Support Group
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Sexual Assault Survivors
Every Monday 2-3pm
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