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Troy Eid: Violence, PTSD Are Killing Native Youth

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Violent crime occurs so pervasively around Native youth that they suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the same rate as U.S. veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Native juvenilles are exposed to violent crime rates up to 10 times the national average, and one in three Native girls will be raped in their lifetimes. In Alaska, sexual assault rates are significantly higher—among some communities it's 100 percent, according to the National Indian Law and Order Commission—and the police response rate can take days, if law enforcement comes at all.

Troy A. Eid, a former U.S. attorney for Colorado and chairman of the Indian Law and Order Commission, wrote an op-ed for The Denver Post about how extreme violence and PTSD is costing "us an entire generation of Native American and Alaska Natives, the fastest-growing group of young people in the United States.

"The commission has concluded that the federal government is overwhelmingly to blame for this tragedy," Eid wrote. The U.S. needs to "repeal outmoded laws and policies that keep tribes from protecting their citizens, especially their youth, and to let tribes make and enforce their own laws to protect all U.S. citizens on Indian lands," he said.

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It is no wonder, Eid said, that Native youth are killing themselves at record numbers compared to other ethnic and racial groups. As a result of extreme violence and suicide, life expectancies on some Indian reservations are the lowest in the Western Hemisphere.

In areas of Indian country where the federal government gives tribal police and courts more autonomy, violent crime rates are dwindling, and youth and women are getting more support.

On February 12, Eid is scheduled to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs with the Indian Law and Order Commission's report " A Roadmap for Making Native America Safer."

"The tragedy in Indian country will remain invisible only if the rest of us refuse to see it," Eid said.