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Historical Trauma Or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The concept of historical trauma initially emerged from the psychoanalytic literature, especially as it pertained to Holocaust survivors and their descendants. It was first applied to the indigenous peoples of the Americas in the early 1990s by Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, a Lakota social work researcher whose training included psychoanalytic psychotherapy (Brave Heart-Jordan & DeBruyn, 1995). In tandem with this work, Eduardo and Bonnie Duran (Duran, 1995; Duran, 2006; Brave Heart, & Yellow Horse-Davis, 1998) likewise promoted a virtually identical concept under the label of soul wound. (Gone J. P. (2013). Redressing First Nations historical trauma: Theorizing Mechanisms for indigenous culture as mental health treatment. Transcultural Psychiatry 2013 50: p. 683-706).


Historical trauma is described as a collective phenomenon shared by members of an identifiable group who have experienced deliberate conquest, colonization, or genocide, whereas PTSD remains a disorder of the individual. Historical trauma is described as cumulative in its impacts over time such that multiple traumatic experiences are said to exhibit additive effects resulting in proportionately greater distress and disability in comparison to the sequelae of more limited traumatic exposures. Historical trauma is also described as intergenerational in its impact in comparison to the disruptions of PTSD that principally affect a single life for a circumscribed period of time. (Gone J. P. (2013). Redressing First Nations historical trauma: Theorizing Mechanisms for indigenous culture as mental health treatment. Transcultural Psychiatry 2013 50: p. 683-706).


Trauma and its pathological sequelae appear to feature prominently in the lives of contemporary Indigenous community members, particularly during the formative years of development. For example, three-quarters of American Indian women seeking primary care medical services endorsed experiences of childhood abuse or neglect, with 40% reporting severe child maltreatment; severely adverse childhood experiences were associated with lifetime alcohol dependence and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; B. Duran et al., 2004). (Gone J. P. (2013). Redressing First Nations historical trauma: Theorizing Mechanisms for indigenous culture as mental health treatment. Transcultural Psychiatry 2013 50: p. 683-706).


A genetic linkage study of a large sample of southwestern Native Americans representing three interrelated family pedigrees revealed that 49% of women and 14% of men were sexually abused as children, greatly increasing their risk for psychiatric problems (Robin, Chester, Rasmussen, Jaranson, & Goldman, 1997b). Gay, lesbian, and bisexual (or ‘‘two-spirit’’) Native Americans were even more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to report childhood abuse (Balsam, Huang, Fieland, Simoni, & Walters, 2004). (Gone J. P. (2013). Redressing First Nations historical trauma: Theorizing Mechanisms for indigenous culture as mental health treatment. Transcultural Psychiatry 2013 50: p. 683-706).


A school-based sample of Native children also reported high rates of exposure to potentially traumatic events, with 61% experiencing at least one such event and two thirds of these endorsing two or more such events (Jones, Dauphinais, Sack, & Somervell, 1997). Other studies have reinforced the link between adverse childhood exposures, including potentially severe traumatic events, and alcohol dependence for First Nations people (Boyd-Ball, Manson, Noonan, & Beals, 2006; Koss et al., 2003). (Gone J. P. (2013). Redressing First Nations historical trauma: Theorizing Mechanisms for indigenous culture as mental health treatment. Transcultural Psychiatry 2013 50: p. 683-706).


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 www.iinii.org, or contact us at iinii@iinii.org or 1800-507-2502.



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