If there is a hole in my journalistic heart, it belongs to Warm Springs — 1,600 square miles of high desert plateau in the middle of Oregon. Driving past Mount Hood and seeing the "Entering Warm Springs Indian Reservation" sign gives me chills. For months I drove there once, twice, three times a week to tell a story for The Oregonian and try to answer a deceptively simple question:
In 2004, seven children died in this community of 3,800. Children and teenagers on the Warm Springs Reservation were four times as likely to die as other Oregonians their age. Why?
There is no simple answer, of course. Statistics are only the beginning. Warm Springs is home to three tribal cultures forced to live together by the U.S. government. The reservation covers a meager percentage of the land they once considered their territory. Tribal residents were forced into federal boarding schools governed by the policy of “kill the savage, save the man.” One entire generation was removed. At the boarding schools, the natives’ hair was cut off, their spirits broken. Some were physically or sexually abused. They were beaten if they spoke their native languages. The result is a missing generation of parents — a problem with no solution. The ancestral bond through 500 generations of mid-Columbia native tribes has broken, replaced by a vicious cycle of violence and neglect.©The Oregonian.