Five Core Themes


CULTURE FORWARD provides a starting place where our Native youth thrive, pave the way for future generations and continue to lead us in impactful global movements. We are committed to weaving together our collective knowledge, existing resources and diverse voices. Our goal is not just to prevent Native youth suicide, but to hold up the strengths of our communities and cultures. 

Select the items below to learn more about the Five Core Themes:

Empirical research shows that perceived caring from tribal leaders is protective against suicidal thoughts for Native youth. Powerful stories from our youth coupled with research show the impact tribal leaders have in protecting our Native youth. We have the power to help our youth who are struggling now and to make a difference in the lives of those yet to come.


Children are sacred to our communities. They carry forward our beliefs, cultures, strengths and traditions for future generations. It is our communities’ responsibility to provide our children with a foundation for supporting their mental, emotional, social and spiritual well-being over the course of their lives. This must start in early childhood. And, as they grow and learn, it becomes increasingly important to engage them in leadership roles.


From creation stories, to stories linked to rites of passage, to stories about the lands to stories that teach us about our morals and values, our ancestors handed down blueprints for healthy living from time immemorial to all future generations on Mother Earth. As Western science evolves, scientific evidence is confirming what we always knew—our medicines, ceremonies and traditions are essential to our health and healing as Indigenous peoples. They provide us the knowledge and methods to protect and heal our minds, bodies and spirits in the aftermath of the historical and contemporary traumas that have hurt our communities.


Academic research supports that connections to lands, community and traditional wisdom prevent Native youth suicide.

Research also supports that a sense of belonging to community and interacting with lands can reduce depression and suicidal thoughts. Efforts to promote interconnectedness among peoples, lands and all living things will aid community-based suicide prevention strategies.


Connectedness and belonging have been found to help protect against suicide and substance use in research with our communities. Our youth experience connectedness on many important levels—including to their self, peers, family, community and the natural environment. 

Our close family networks help protect youth from suicide by providing important sources of strength. Connectedness to caring adults increases the likelihood that negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors, including warning signs of suicide, are noticed and addressed before young people think about suicide, make a suicide attempt or die from suicide.


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