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Minnesota Killer Chafed at Life On Reservation

The last time he saw a mental health professional at the Red Lake hospital was on Feb. 21, she said. She remembers the date because it was the same day he refilled his prescription for 60 milligrams a day of Prozac, which he had been taking since last summer.

Online, he seemed to be reaching out in strange directions, especially for a Native American kid. He wrote sympathetically about Hitler and grumbled about racial interbreeding among tribal members.


The Red Lake reservation is geographically remote, and tribal leaders have been resistant to federal programs that would lead to private land ownership. (Morry Gash -- AP)

_____Survivors Speak_____
Two Red Lake High School students wounded in Monday's deadly shooting there talk about their experiences during the attack.

But there appears to have been no one in the school or on the reservation who saw the red flags.

Ethnic Hardships

A bleak mountain of federal research suggests the extraordinary risks and hardships of growing up Indian, compared with growing up as a member of any other ethnic group in the United States.

The annual average violent crime rate among Indians is twice as high as that of blacks and 2 1/2 times as high as that for whites, according to a survey last year by the Justice Department.

Indian youths commit suicide at twice the rate of other young people, according to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The overall death rate of Indians younger than 25 is three times that of the total population in that age group.

Compared with other groups, the commission found, Indians of all ages are 670 percent more likely to die from alcoholism, 650 percent more likely to die from tuberculosis, 318 percent more likely to die from diabetes and 204 percent more likely to suffer accidental death.

And despite considerable income gains in the past 15 years, some of it because of Indian gambling operations, Native Americans remain the poorest ethnic group in the country, with about half the average income of other Americans.

When it comes to young Indians, the statistical picture here on the Red Lake reservation, home to about 5,000 tribal members, is even bleaker than the national average. A third of teenagers on this reservation are not in school, not working and not looking for work (compared with 20 percent on all reservations), according to census figures.

A survey last year by the Minnesota departments of health and education found that young people here are far more likely to think about suicide, be depressed, worry about drugs and be violent with one another than children across the state. At St. Mary's Mission School, an elementary school student recently painted a poster for her father: "Dad, don't do cocaine any more."

The state survey of ninth-graders found that at Red Lake High, 43 percent of boys and 82 percent of girls had thoughts about suicide, with 20 percent of boys and 48 percent of girls saying that they tried it at least once.

Three months ago, Weise wrote online about suicide: "I'm starting to regret sticking around, I should've taken the razor blade express last time around. . . . Well, whatever, man. Maybe they've got another shuttle comin' around sometime soon?"

The Region's History

Compared with other reservations in Minnesota and across the country, Red Lake appears to have had an especially toxic history of violence, drug problems and gang activity. The curriculum now includes courses in anti-gang training, anti-bullying training, drug and alcohol abuse prevention, and instruction in fetal alcohol syndrome.

School Superintendent Stuart Desjarlait said a gang shooting at the high school in 1996 prompted federal funding for metal detectors, security cameras and security guards. The security system, however, proved all but useless when Weise showed up at the high school on Monday, driving a police cruiser he had stolen from his slain grandfather, wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with three weapons. Police responded quickly, but it took only about 10 minutes for Weise to kill seven people and himself.


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