North Dakota Rural-Tribal Mentoring Partnership
Although he is not an American Indian, Mark LoMurray says he felt “called to Indian country” early in his career and has been working with tribal communities ever since. “That's where my heart is,” he says. A native of North Dakota, LoMurray has spent much of the past 20 years collaborating with tribal elders, parents, spiritual leaders and professionals to make a difference. The result? Two programs that are successfully serving tribal youth by lowering the rates of adolescent suicide and reconnecting young people to their elders.
In 1998, LoMurray co-founded the North Dakota Adolescent Suicide Prevention Taskforce with the goal of reducing North Dakota's suicide fatality rate which was then almost double the national average. The taskforce has since trained over 60,000 individuals using a curriculum LoMurray wrote called Sources of Strength. LoMurray's efforts, along with the work of many others, contributed to a 34% decrease in teen and young adult suicide fatalities in the region between 2000 and 2004. The project received the 2005 Public Health Practice Award from the American Association of Public Health.
The North Dakota Tribal-Rural Youth Mentoring Partnership, co-founded by LoMurray in 200, is also making a difference by building on traditional American Indian beliefs that emphasize the importance of linking one generation to the next. With the help of strong tribal and rural partners, over 450 4-8th graders are being mentored by 280 American Indian adults in communities across North Dakota.
LoMurray says learning about tribal history, values and traditions, as well as building relationships of trust with tribal leaders are vital to working in the American Indian community. And for now, that's where LoMurray plans to stay. After all, he says, “I have one of the greatest jobs in the world.”