For many Native Americans, it still brings about a spur of emotion or inner-conflict to discuss or consider events of the past in regards to their ancestors and the plight they suffered. This may be a result of the theory of Inter-Generational Trauma or Historical Trauma.
I recently attended a lecture on Historical Trauma by Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Braveheart at the University of Nevada Reno. Dr. Braveheart first conceptualized the theory of Historical Trauma in the 1980s.
The basis of the Historical Trauma theory is that unresolved trauma can be passed on inter-generationally. Whatever my ancestors have experienced in the way of trauma (genocide, forced relocation, imprisonment, etc.) is affecting not only me but generations to come.
Some of the effects of this passing of inter-generational trauma include depression, alcohol or drug abuse, unsettled emotional trauma, domestic violence, high mortality rates, and domestic violence.
It is difficult to think that something that happened to one of our ancestors can directly affect us today in an emotional context. Though, I have lived these statistics for a majority of my life; growing up in both the city and rural reservations.
Dr. Braveheart went on to state that a communal healing of this Historical Trauma was possible. There are four components to creating a successful community intervention to address and heal from this trauma.
The first was to confront the trauma. Growing up, I heard stories about how my Grandmother and even my Mother were subjected to government boarding schools. I was only told part of the story. I wasn’t told about the physical, mental, and sexual abuse that went on in those institutions. I think a lot of those who experienced this abuse wanted to keep it quiet for one reason or another. Though, in order to heal from this trauma it must be confronted.
The second component is to understand the trauma. This may be difficult for those of us who have not experienced the trauma first-hand. However, it is evident that we are affected by this trauma so it is imperative that we try to look at the past through the eyes of those who were there.
The third component is releasing the pain connected to the trauma. By allowing ourselves to feel and express the emotions and pain tied to the trauma, the healing process can then begin.
The final component is to transcend the trauma. I believe it goes without saying that in order to heal you must be able to forgive. We have to be able to forgive the unforgivable, which is the only way we can evolve as people, as a country, or as a species. We must learn from our past and dream of a better future for all.