January 2, 2018
By Vi Waln
The resilience of our ancestors is found in our youth. It was emotional to watch the video of Sophie Brings Plenty running on a snow packed road, carrying an eagle feather staff in the Wounded Knee Survivors Run. Indigenous young people were also a part of the Dakota 38+2 Memorial Ride, the Water Walk to bring awareness to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and the ride to remember the Wounded Knee Massacre.
Our people have survived with the effects of historical trauma for centuries. Consequently, there are still many of our people who don’t value education. Yet, education is what helps us learn how to heal ourselves of intergenerational trauma.
Education doesn’t always mean attending the schools built by the wasicu. But we do have Indigenous health professionals who are working with our young people to help them overcome their trauma. For instance, Dr. Darryl Tonemah (Kiowa/Comanche/Tuscarora) is a psychologist who works with adults and children in numerous communities on Turtle Island. We appreciate his sacrifice in earning professional credentials. He uses his education to help our people better understand and overcome the effects of trauma.
We would do well to educate ourselves by learning about our ancestors and embracing what they stood for. Our ancestors fought and died so we could be here today. They also carried historical trauma but they never gave up. We have to embrace our cultural heritage as a way to educate ourselves on how historical trauma affects our daily lives.
Healing from intergenerational or historical trauma isn’t going to come from a pill prescribed from an Indian Health Service physician. Individuals must work on themselves to heal from the pain carried in their DNA. Attending the ceremonies still being held in our homelands is one way to heal.
Prayer is important when we are walking the path of healing. Many of us are taught not to pray for ourselves as many believe we should only pray for others. Still, I encourage you to pray for yourself every single day.
I’ve learned to pray for myself because I have to heal myself so I can be an example for people who don’t understand why they are the way they are. When we suffer from historical trauma, we will often turn to substance abuse to numb our pain. Many of our young people are severely traumatized but they don’t really understand it.
It’s up to the adults to show our young people the healing path. We can do that by being a positive role model. Yet, it’s hard to be a positive role model when you are an adult who doesn’t understand what historical trauma is. Again, we have to educate ourselves on what trauma is and how we can move forward to heal. Once you understand why you are the way you are, you can’t go back. You can only move forward into wellness.
I am truly grateful to all our relatives who continue to bring awareness to historical trauma by riding, running and walking every December, often in subzero temperatures. Wopila for remembering our ancestors executed in the 19th century by the 7th Cavalry and President Lincoln. Wopila for praying for our Water. Wopila for praying for the Indigenous women who are missing and those who’ve been murdered. You are good relatives setting a positive example for our children. We can heal!