Introduction (Note: paper written in 1985)
A Yukon Indian Band member who had only two weeks to go to successfully complete grade 12 went on a drunk and didn't write the final exams everybody knew he could easily pass. A native university student struggled with her teachers and took forever to complete the last few easy assignments that were due in order to receive her degree: not only once, but for each of three degrees -- Bachelors, Masters, and her PhD. Within a few months of completing an upgrading course several members of the Salmon Arm area Indian community committed suicide. The NANA region of Alaska, one of the best-managed, wealthiest and most socially-conscious native-run communities and administrations in the north, has the highest suicide rate in the State.
In these, and in many other similar situations where there were clear indicators of success, there have also been signs that something very troubling was happening. Where things should have been going very well for everybody involved, there were some for whom success was related to very serious self-inflicted damage -- sometimes suicide. Why? What's going on? That's what this article is about. I'll try to explain some of the factors I think are involved in the notion of "success", and why, for some people, the possibility of achievement of success brings on self-destructive behavior. I will then discuss these issues in the light of the development of the indigenous human resources required to implement land claims throughout the north.