Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Depressingly too often 

Another multiple-death murder-suicide in a Minnesota high school happened earlier this afternoon, in Red Lake, on a reservation about 200 miles north of St. Cloud. Here's the high school's website. Details are still coming in; I'll follow it on the news all evening. Of course, in central Minnesota we had a similar story less than two years ago.

UPDATE 1: A few extra details in the AP report; the suspect also is believed to have killed his grandparents first, the father a police official on the reservation. It's a fairly impoverished place as are most reservations around Minnesota, with a poverty rate over 40%. One site suggests an umemployment rate of 39% though I think that might be high; the high school graduation rate is about 60%.

UPDATE 2: Hugh Hewitt:
This has been a year of extraordinary suffering, from the human costs of the war, the tsunami, and a hundred other stories. Terri Schiavo's suffering, and the suffering of the victims in Minnesota, begin Holy Week with somber reminders on suffering's universality, and the need for salvation --the reality of Good Friday and the triumph of Easter.
UPDATE 3: Death toll up to ten now. The STrib has a background piece on Red Lake Reservation as well.

UPDATE 4: Just watched local TV news coverage. Some other depressingly familiar parallels to other school shootings: One kid said other students told him they heard the shooter say last year he would do this. Same kid said the shooter was 'goth', which challenges my perceptions of Native American students. Because Red Lake is a closed reservation, it appears to be very difficult for both reporters and state police to gain access to the area.

William Polley notes that I had a link out to Red Lake County. My bad, the link is now fixed with better demographic information. This testimony from 2003 says the unemployment rate there is 60%. Median age on the reservation is about 20.1 years old. There's little doubt from talking with people who know anything about the place that it's considered one of the most impoverished areas not only of Minnesota but of the nation.

UPDATE 5: From the tribal leadership:

I am sorry to announce that the events that took place today involving the shootings at the Red Lake High School make this one of the darkest and most painful occurrences in the history of our tribe.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims.

I can assure the Red Lake tribal members that the situation is under control and secure. Several organizations and agencies have offered assistance in our time of need and the Red Lake Nation has graciously accepted.

The FBI, ATF, BCA, along with the Beltrami County Sheriff�s Department, the Minnesota State Highway Patrol and the Red Cross will be providing assistance to our public safety department through out the next several days. These agencies are all here with our permission.

An information line has been set up to handle your calls and to answer any questions you may have. The number is 679-4284.This is a 24 hour emergency line.

Bumped to the top.

UPDATE 6: Mitch asks whether this will get the coverage Columbine did, since the kids there were "folks like us" and Red Lake is not. Well, there's also the issue of its remoteness and the closed nature of the reservation to consider. I keep coming across Clyde Bellecourt's comment:

Everyone in the Indian community is feeling really bad right now, whether they�re a member of the Red Lake or not, we�re all an extended family, we�re all related. Usually this happens in places like Columbine, white schools, always somewhere else. We never hear that in our community.

..."No one would ever think that that type of violence would visit itself in our communities, it's not part of our culture and our traditions, so we're kind of puzzled by it all," Vernon Bellecourt said.

"But our young people are not exempt from the same problems young people have across the country," he added, "so our communities are now being victimized by this same kind of violence."

As Mitch says, both sides of the cultural divide are going to be working this one.

Norwegianity has a roundup of coverage as well focusing on the student's interest in the neo-Nazi movement.