March 21, 2006, marks the one-year anniversary of the school shootings that left 10 people dead on the Red Lake Indian Reservation. The shootings brought national attention to the economic and social problems plaguing Indian Country. American Indians are at the bottom of nearly every national indicator of well-being. Indians commit suicide at twice the rate of the general population. They're more likely to be poor, have health problems or die violently. Alcohol and drugs have ripped apart Native families. Often, the kids suffer most.

By Dan Gunderson and Tom Robertson, Minnesota Public Radio
March 2006

Audio Listen to the story

Faces of Despair

Go to story
Document Brandon Humphrey: Killed
Brandon Humphrey was looking forward to his 18th birthday. His family threw a party for him, but he wasn't there.
Go to story
Document David Eischens: Imprisoned
David Eischens has spent most of his young life in jail or prison.
Go to story
Document Moon Roberts: Suicide
A young man who seemed destined to be a leader is overwhelmed by the burden.
Go to story
Document Michael Littlewolf: Killed
After years of crime and gang activity, Michael Littlewolf decided to straighten up. That decision cost him his life.

What's gone wrong?

Facts about growing up Indian

DocumentHigher incarceration rates

DocumentLower graduation rates

DocumentHigher dropout rates

DocumentHigher death rates


Background on the issues facing Indian communities, and links to groups that provide assistance. (More)

Tell us your story

Is growing up Native American different from growing up black, white, Asian or Latino? In what ways?
Share your thoughts.
Read what others have to say.

White Earth Tribal Judge Anita Fineday says she sees many bright spots on the reservation. Read her commentary.

More from MPR

DocumentCass Lake community struggles with increase in violence

DocumentWhat happened at Red Lake?

DocumentRekindling the Spirit: The rebirth of American Indian Spirituality

DocumentBroken Trust: Civil rights in Indian Country


Producers: Dan Gunderson and Tom Robertson
Broadcast editor: Kate Smith
Online editor: Melanie Sommer
Web design: Ben Tesch
Researcher: Betsy Cole
Go to story
Document The deep roots of social breakdown
Tribal elders blame the boarding school era for ripping apart the social fabric of Indian communities.
Go to story
Document The huge influence of gangs
Gangs are a big problem on Indian reservations. Young boys often look up to gang members as their only role models.

Stories of hope

Go to story
Document Bryce Hanks: Dreaming big
He wants to prove there's more to White Earth than dropping out and drinking.
Go to story
Document Recovery for a community
For many, the way to fix problems in Indian Country is through culture and tradition.