I was shocked and saddened at the report of the school shooting at Red Lake First Nation in Minnesota. I read the news reports of the event and I was surprised at the number of people killed in what seemed like a random act of violence. It was sad to realize that this was one more incident of extreme rage by a teenage student. The event made me think about why people act out in this way.
What kind of a world do we live in where people who feel left out end up thinking that their only option is to react violently? There are many examples of people in our society who feel oppressed and alienated in some way. They are not given the support and assistance they need as members of our society and in the end they feel alone and misunderstood. This reality leads to anger and resentment and in turn this too often ends up in tragedy with the loss of life.
I believe that we are all responsible in some way or another for the actions of our society’s individual members.
We all play a role in everyone’s lives in what we do and don’t do. Maybe as community members we should take a more active part in making sure that everyone is taken care of and that they are given a fair chance to become positive individuals in our society. We have a role to play in making sure that people are cared for in our communities.
There are also other causes for acts of violence in our society. A lot of the violence and suicides by young people points to medications for anxiety and depression. There may be beneficial uses for medications to deal with these problems but there are serious side effects to these drugs and some of them seem to be a tendency towards violence and suicide. We must think twice about putting people on these medications. Currently, we think that it is normal to treat people’s depression and anxiety with medication rather than to spend the time with them to really deal with any underlying problems. A pill is a quick fix.
There is also the whole issue of access to guns in the United States. There are far too many stories of people acting out in violent ways with guns. If someone is upset or mentally unstable it is very easy for them to turn to a firearm and put it to deadly use.
As a First Nation Cree person from the James Bay coast, I grew up accustomed to all sorts of hunting rifles and shotguns around the house. Firearms are a normal part of life for Native people in remote communities. Hunting and gathering is still a part of our traditional culture, but I would be the first to question whether guns should be so readily accessible. There are many stories in First Nations and in my own community of Attawapiskat of young people getting control of a gun while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is too easy for people to grab a hold of gun when they are not in their right minds. There have been far too many sad stories of suicide and tragedy involving guns in our First Nation communities.
There are many people who claim that the gun registry is not needed and that there should be less gun control. I think if you ask most police officers or those who have been tragically affected by the wrongful use of a firearm you will get another view. I do not think that gun control is being done as well as it should be, however. There should be no easy access to something as deadly as a gun and believe me there are too many guns sitting around and open to use by anyone in many homes in First Nation communities and as well non-Native communities. When guns are this readily available it is far too easy for bad things to happen, even to good people.
My heart goes out to the family of the young man who acted out against his community in Red Lake and to the students and parents who were affected by this tragedy. Maybe there can be some good that can come out of this terrible event. Perhaps this will give us all a wake-up call to pay more attention to each other and to create a more accepting and understanding society where no-one feels left out and if they do they will not have such an easy time getting hold of a gun.