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The debilitating effects of bullying only explain part of the reason that American Indian communities are facing a youth mental health crisis. Some studies provide overwhelming evidence that American Indian peoples' continue to experience a cultural genocide that has contributed to Native youth experiencing increased anger, avoidance, anxiety and depression (Whitbeck, Adams, Hoyt, & Chen, 2004), all linked to increased suicidal ideation. American Indians have been forced into a Way of Knowing based on their oppressors' cultures and values (Pepion, 1999; Bastien, 2004), causing Native children to experience cultural confusion (Whitbeck et al., 2002), resulting in diminished mental health (Brave Heart et al., 2016).

A lack of understanding and a proper application about Indigenous Ways of Knowing has caused many American Indian youths to experience cultural confusion resulting in a vanquished cultural identity that hinders the development of vital coping skills (Crowshoe & Manneschmidt, 2002). The authors claim that cultural confusion "refers to how these young people perceived concepts of personal power and traditional medicine" (p. 1). Smith (1999) posits that indigenous ways of knowing are dominated by a theory of knowledge based on empiricism and a scientific paradigm of positivism.

Pepion (1999) argues that American Indians have been forced into a Way of Knowing based on their oppressors' cultures and values and Cajete & Pueblo (2010) claim that American Indians' lived experiences, knowledge, and interests are largely ignored by mainstream education. Traditional educational systems focus their attention on helping children learn skills deemed necessary to function and be successful in the dominant culture's society with an implicit goal of assimilation without honoring how Native children learn how to be successful in their world (Bastien, 2004).

Some studies contend that traditional cultural practices that use cultural values to heal intergenerational trauma may help American Indian students reduce suicidal thoughts (Hill 2009; Yurkovich, Hopkins, & Rieke, 2012), and suicidal ideation may be reduced by participating in spiritual activities (Garroutte et al., 2003). Wexler et al., (2016) claim that American Indians suffer from lack of culturally appropriate mental-health interventions, and argue for the development of partnerships stating "Collaborations between researchers and Indigenous communities potentially allow for the research itself to be an emancipatory process that enables community members to identify and frame issues important to their community and to develop solutions that reflect community priorities" (p. 894).

The researchers at IINII use a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help the school community identify both contemporary and traditional values that are the basis for honoring the unique culture embedded in each school community to help create a vibrant school culture that is guaranteed to improve both cultural and school connectedness. Cultural and school connectedness are identified in numerous studies as protective factors for overcoming difficult mental health challenges. To learn how you can begin to honor your school communities unique cultural fibers, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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