FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The top two leaders on the Navajo Nation say recent suicides in communities affected by a mine spill have shaken reservation towns to their core.
President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez have mentioned the suicides numerous times, often alongside pleas for more resources from the federal government over the Aug. 5 mine spill.
The comments have brought skepticism from people in the affected communities who wonder if there’s a direct correlation.
Begaye and Nez have said tribal health officials are investigating any possible links. Neither responded to repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press.
Local churches responded to the suicides with prayer walks. Students participated in a program about American Indian pride, values and leadership. Counselors and behavioral health specialists have been focused on suicide prevention.