An "alcohol-driven plague of violence and death" threatens the family and community life in native villages throughout Alaska, according to a report on the state's 75,000 Eskimos, Indians and Aleuts.
"The data in the report are so stark and so serious that the prognosis, if we do absolutely nothing, is poor as far as village survival," Janie Leask, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives said at a news conference late Friday.The 78-page report, prepared by the federation, documents an unfolding tragedy that threatens peoples who have survived independently for millennia in one of the harshest environments on earth.
Alaska's native peoples are afflicted by suicide, murder, crime, joblessness, poor education and despair, with little prospect for a better future unless some solutions are found soon, the report concluded. Much of the problem can be traced to alcoholism, it said.
The report documents "the alcohol-driven plague of violence and death that is shredding the fabric of family and community life in native villages throughout Alaska. This epidemic has inflicted intolerable emotional and physical damage on native people. The cycle of alcohol abuse, violence and death must be broken."
Leask said the predicament of Alaska natives is partly due to "the fundamental failure of state and federal policies in Alaska intended to assist."
Native suicides are four times the national average, and native men 20-24 years old are killing themselves at 14 times the national rate. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among Alaska natives.
Murder is four times more common in Alaska native communities than elsewhere in the nation. Alaska native women face a higher risk of being murdered than women anywhere else in the United States.