Sioux Valley Dakota Nation declares state of emergency after rash of suicides

A western Manitoba Indigenous community declared a state of emergency after four of its members died of suicide in the past month — three in the past week alone.

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation demanded immediate assistance and money for mental health supports from Indigenous Services Canada, the nation’s governance wrote in an open letter.

“It is with a heavy and solemn heart that we recognize our lack of current resources in the community to properly and appropriately address the ongoing and urgent mental health needs of our people,” reads the memo addressed to the federal minister of Indigenous Services and the provincial minister of Indigenous and Northern Relations.

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The community, which is about 50 km west of Brandon, has requested funding for four, full-time community mental health workers and support for its crisis line workers.

It also wants a longer-term plan — a healing lodge meant to address the impacts of colonialism and long-term resources to address health and safety, the memo reads.

The band council resolution that declared the state of emergency notes COVID-19 safeguards have hindered the community’s ability to conduct traditional grief and trauma practices.

In a news release Saturday evening, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) said it offers condolences and support to the grieving community.

“We are having funerals on a weekly basis and it is wearing us down,” reads a statement from AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas, adding that although AMC has worked to assist the community, it needs federal support.

Global News has requested comment from Indigenous Services Canada but did not immediately receive a response.

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