With a Spirit that Understands: Reflections on a Long-term Community Science Initiative to End Suicide in Alaska

Stacy M. Rasmus, Billy Charles, Simeon John, James Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This retrospective analysis of a long-term community-based participatory research (CBPR) process spans over two decades of work with Alaska Native communities. A call to action from Alaska Native leadership to create more effective strategies to prevent and treat youth suicide and alcohol misuse risk initiated a response from university researchers. This CBPR process transformed into a collaborative effort to indigenously drive and develop solutions through research. The People Awakening project started our team on this translational and transformational pathway through community intervention science in the Central Yup'ik region of Alaska. We examine more deeply the major episodes and their successes and struggles in maintaining a long-term research relationship between university researchers and members of Yup'ik Alaska Native communities. We explore ways that our CBPR relationship has involved negotiation and engagement with power and praxis, to deepen and focus attention to knowledge systems and relational elements. This paper examines these deeper, transformative elements of our CBPR relationship that spans histories, cultures, and systems. Our discussion shares vignettes from academic and community perspectives to describe process in a unique collaboration, reaching to sometimes touch upon rare ground in emotions, tensions, and triumphs over the course of a dozen grants and twice as many years. We conclude by noting how there are points where, in a long-term CBPR relationship, transition out of emergence into coalescing and transformation can occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-45
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Community Psychology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was funded by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, R01AA023754, to Rasmus & Allen, MPIs.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Society for Community Research and Action


  • American Indian and Alaska Native
  • Community-based participatory research
  • indigenous intervention science
  • indigenous knowledge


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