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Historical Trauma Incorporates Historical Oppression

Distinct tribes have varying historical contexts, languages, cultural practices, values, and social structures. Despite this variability, there is an absence of understanding of culturally specific risk and protective factors relating to American Indian populations youth; this absence persists, even with research emphasizing the variability of resilience across contexts the need for its greater understanding. Although overlap between Native and non-Native risk and protective factors exist, such as social support, self-esteem, family support, school factors, community safety, parental education and mental health, and exposure to traumatic events, culturally distinct factors are also significant for American Indian youth, such as historical loss, spirituality, extended family, ethnic identity, and connectedness.

A major societal risk factor health inequity is historical trauma and oppression. Indeed, any examination of mental health disparities incorporate the ubiquitous effects of the disproportionate rates of historical and contemporary traumas continually experienced by Native populations. Intergenerational trauma and historical trauma are concepts used to indicate the trauma inflicted on groups sharing an ethnic or national background.

The pervasive effects of historical trauma on Native youth, families, and communities. The historical loss and oppression incurred by American Indian peoples throughout colonization, including widespread disease, warfare, starvation, cultural genocide, forced relocation and boarding school participation, discrimination, and poverty, are linked to mental health disparities among Native American youth. Burnette broadened the concept of historical trauma to incorporate historical oppression, to not only encompasses the pervasive and continued effects of chronic, internalized, insidious, and intergenerational experiences of subjugation, but to also include daily experiences of oppression, such as discrimination and poverty.

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ and parents’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic youth-centered environment that honors the unique values of your students and parents, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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