Historical Trauma


Hi there, here’s our latest question:
Dear Auntie, is there truth that historical trauma could be passed down
genetically if so what can we do to heal as Native Americans? Wow this is an
excellent question so let’s talk about historical trauma. So, historical trauma
is defined as a collective cumulative emotional wounding across generations
which is a result of some cataclysmic events. So, in the case of Native
Americans, the cataclysmic event was genocide, slavery, forced relocation,
destruction of cultural practices and one of the biggest affecting events was
the removal of children from their homes to be re-educated. The program’s plan was to exterminate the identity of indigenous populations. So this is now
what we consider to be cultural genocide. There were more than 25 off-reservation
boarding schools with over 150 Native children. At least 4,000 of these
children died in the care of the schools. So kids as young as 3 to 4 years old
were forced to attend these schools, they were not parented, they were not allowed
to speak their own language or practice their culture and sometimes they were
tortured and met with brutality if they did anything cultural. They also
encountered sexual abuse. Up to 90% in some communitie,s so as a result part of
this generation did not learn traditional knowledge, how to relate to
each other traditionally, how to parent, how to discipline or how to express
themselves. What they learned instead were the practices that they were taught
in school, harsh physical punishment and militaristic ways of thinking and
living. So the way that trauma works is that an individual can hold on to it
personally and then pass it down through the generations. Even a person who may
not have experienced the trauma can still feel it generations later. So, onto
part of your question – so can historical trauma be passed down genetically? So,
recent studies, behind the science of intergenerational trauma for instance
between Holocaust survivors and their children have discovered that trauma can
be passed down through the generations. So there is a theory called the
epigenetic inheritance theory that says environmental factors can affect the
genes of future generations. So something that looks like a post-it note, they call
it a chemical tag, is shown to latch on to our DNA switching the genes on and
off. Some of these tags can be transferred across generations and even
passed down in utero. So what are the symptoms in response to historical
trauma? We learned to cope through it or cope in ways through drug and alcohol
abuse, withdrawing, being numb, going through depression. The result is the further
erosion of family and the community and it creates this really terrible cycle of
unhealthiness which can lead to more violence and more stress. So, on to the
most important part of your question, how do we turn this around?
How can we heal? So first start with the beauty. Start with what makes us proud to be native. Acknowledge and show gratitude to our elders for persevering our
culture in spite of what they went through and then see yourself as part of
the cycle. So, you are now a part of a new generation that can carry forward and
show all of the goodness of our culture. Connect with others, connect with your
elders, connect with your culture through your traditions, your practices, your
customs and most importantly through your people. And then again talk to your
elders. So, from a science perspective there is an upside to the genetics part.
So, luckily our genes are like plastic which means that they have the potential
to transform. So right now we don’t really know to what extent, but if there
is a possibility for change you can be guaranteed that our Native communities
who have persevered through so much can find a way to resilience, through our
genes and through our intention of wanting our tribal communities to thrive.
So find your way to the solution. Connect with your community new sites like we
are native, to uplift share and support your Native brothers and sisters. So
THANK YOU so much for this excellent question! Take care, bye 🙂

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