Elicia G. Winner of Multicultural Award Promotes Healing Through Sharing Stories

Elicia Goodsoldier encourages people to share their stories to heal.

The 32-year-old Dine’ and Spirit Lake Dakota woman speaks openly about the conflicted emotions she experienced during her youth, raised in her grandparents' blended Christian and American Indian home on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Lupton, Arizona, reported the Longmont Times-Call. As children, both of her grandparents were committed to boarding schools, where sexual and physical abuse was rampant. They were forbidden to practice their Native American traditions and forced to adopt Christianity. "When they grew up, being Indian was a bad thing, speaking your language was a bad thing," Goodsoldier said. "You needed to speak English and become a Christian." In turn, Goodsoldier became a victim of historical trauma, which "is passed on across generations, if there is no spiritual intervention," she wrote on the One Action website. (One Action is a Boulder County, Colorado-based community conversation project dedicated to promoting understanding and acceptance of historical truths.) Goodsoldier told the Longmont Times-Call how feeling disconnected with her roots and a constant fear of abandonment led her to attempt suicide twice. "I wish when I was 16 years old or 22 years old, I had someone like me who was helping me. I feel like when you're ashamed of what you've been through and you hold it in and you don't let it go, how do you heal?" she told the local newspaper.

Goodsoldier is healing her wounds and stopping the cycle of historical trauma by reconnecting to her culture and teaching her three children to speak Lakota. The family regularly participates in sweat lodge ceremonies and other traditional rituals. Goodsoldier is one of the winners of this year's Boulder County Multicultural Awards, which recognizes the accomplishments and community contributions of people of color. Honorees will be recognized at a banquet ceremony at the Plaza Hotel in Longmont, Colorado on October 4. Goodsoldier now works as a vocational rehabilitation counselor with the Chinook Clubhousein Boulder, Colorado, a Mental Health Partners of Boulder County program where she helps people find temporary and permanent employment. Before that, she worked as a project coordinator for the Sweetgrass Project, the Oglala Sioux Tribe's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-funded tribal youth suicide prevention program. While living in Pine Ridge, she additionally volunteered for several years for the Wakanyeja Pawicayapi, Inc. ("The Children First"), a nonprofit started and operated by Oglala Lakota healers, elders and teachers, for children that have suffered or been victimized in their homes. Among her many other roles in the mental health field, Goodsoldier serves as the board chairwoman for National Alliance for Mental Illness of Boulder County and is a commissioner on the Denver American Indian Commission. "She's a woman of action," said Toni Moon, the director of wellness, education and employment at Mental Health Partners, and one of three people who nominated Goodsoldier for a Boulder County Multicultural Award.