Rebecca Hookimaw, second left, 17, is comforted by family and friends as she tells her story about trying to commit suicide April 16, 2016. (Photo: CP)
Her background has also helped her understand why her peers — most from damaged families living in over-crowded, frequently substandard houses in which drug and alcohol addictions wreak havoc — might want to kill themselves. "I've been through that, too," she says, waving her long black hair from her face. "I started drinking and doing drugs because I couldn't handle the pain anymore." There was also bullying: people called her fat and ugly, she says. Adding to her woes, her four-year-old cousin was killed by a truck a few years ago as she rode her bike on a rutted street — there are no sidewalks and few safe places for kids to play in Attawapiskat. By last fall, when her sister sought out the means with which to end her life, Hookimaw had already tried suicide several times.
"I never made it through, but my sister did."
As many as 100 people have attempted suicide in Attawapiskat since the community declared a state of emergency. (Photo: Getty Images0
A few nights ago, yet another teen in Attawapiskat was airlifted for treatment after cutting at her neck. A day earlier, federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett had flown in to talk to the chief about the deep-rooted crisis. Bennett also got an earful from young residents about their wants and needs. Hookimaw delivered an emotional, unscripted speech that came from her heart. She says she wanted to make it clear that First Nations people are tired of being third-class citizens in their own land. "People are treating us like we're nothing. We're not different from everybody. We're all human," she says. "If we were like white or whatever, they'd help us out right away, but we're native." Bennett has gone. The glare of the media is fading, leaving the still-forlorn young woman trying to move beyond the suicide crisis that is weighing on both her and other First Nations communities across Canada. "I hope everything changes in Attawapiskat one day, because I have little brothers and I don't want them growing up the way I grew up."
"I hope everything changes in Attawapiskat one day, because I have little brothers and I don't want them growing up the way I grew up."
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