The Making of To Live To See the Great Day
By Cynthia K. Hansen, Ph.D.
Off the top of my head, I can think of 100 people who worked together on the very first draft of To Live To See the Great Day That Dawns. There were so many voices, so many people who cared. Many of them were volunteers who made sure their perspectives were heard.
The publication represents an extraordinary effort by tribal leaders, elders, youth, Plains Indians, Pueblos, Alaska Native villagers, the health sector, scientists, academicians, political leaders, and tribal government officials. All these voices were heard, as well as the mainstream grant-making Federal voices. The project was a bridge between them all.
Everybody worked together; no one was left out. It was truly a community effort.
One of our first goals was to make a document that instilled hope, rather than despair, in the face of the enormity of the
suicide issues among young people in Indian Country.
It’s important to know that hope grew from within the culture, from within all the people who cared. American Indians and Alaska Natives have rich cultural resources, and they have extreme resilience. They are survivors. We wanted everyone to know
the publication didn’t come from external sources alone.
In Indian Country, people generously gave their expertise to make this publication work. So that’s what makes it really good. We added illustrations and graphics, poetry, song, and storytelling, because they are the links to our human experience. We needed a way to capture the humanity, to find a way to give a voice to the intimate grief and extreme sorrow—layers and layers of mourning—felt by families and friends and acquaintances who lost loved ones to suicide.
This publication should be shared with pride. We can acknowledge, yes, there is this problem. But look at what we can do to help. Look at what we can do together. And we can do more. That whole rhythm of the document was initially, and still is, really important. This was a commitment we all agreed on.
The publication is a good foundation now, and it will continue to evolve as we learn more over time and build the community.
To Live To See the Great Day That Dawns is really the tip of the iceberg for all the communities that came together to create
it: elders, youth, friends of Indian Country, people who are Native themselves—in urban settings, on reservations, or in the
Alaska Native villages.
This was an extraordinary project to be a part of. We’re all just building on what those have done before us.
Editor’s Note: Cynthia K. Hansen, Ph.D., is currently a Senior Public Health Analyst with the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at HHS. While working on this publication, Dr. Hansen was Special Expert to SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS).