“Myself, I’m one of the generations. My mother is one of the generations, wandering out there in alchcolism, and death, and murder and domestic violence, and thinking there’s no way out…like I tell my grandchildren, ‘You don’t have to walk the road of alchcolism and addiction. I walked that road. I took all those beatings for you guys. You don’t have to walk that road.’” - Verna Bartlett, Ph.D. Native American Elder and sexual abuse survivor.
For American Indian people interested in healing addictions, social and family relations, as well as other physical and emotional illness that infect native communities, and are resistant to Western healing programs, a conference entitled, “Calling upon the Warrior Spirit, inspired by our Creator, to Heal Historical Trauma among Native America through Indigenous Wisdom,” offers presentations and ceremonies from the indigenous perspective.
The three-day conference, which will be held at the Viejas Reservation, from October 7-10, in San Diego, California, will focus on understanding and healing historical trauma in Indian County, through the shared expertise and experience of over 17 guest speakers, including tribal members, professionals in the Native-orientated health and social service fields, youth and elder panels, planning sessions, tribal poetry and music, a traditional Sweat Lodge and Talking Circle Ceremonies, and evening warrior gatherings.
Kenneth G. White Jr., MSW, Navajo Nation tribal member, and CEO of Native Health Care Solutions, LLC, located in Flagstaff, Arizona, one of the Conferences’ organizers and participants, describes the conference as a call to action offering education and planning vehicles for creating a comprehensive indigenous initiative for the holistic treatment of Historical Trauma from the Native American perspective.
Historical Trauma is defined as having three phases. The first is when a dominant culture perpetuates mass traumas on a population, resulting in destruction of the culture, family, society, and economic devastation of the people. The second occurs when that first generation responds with trauma of a biological, (ethnogenic or genetic transference) societal and psychological nature. The third phase is when the trauma is conveyed to successive generations through epigenetics, environmental, emotional and physciological factors, as well as continued prejudice and discrimination.
“In searching for the answer to why our Native communities continue to suffer from trauma related illnesses, we need only to look back upon the last few centuries of westward expansion by Europeans. We witness a long history of cataclysmic events inflicted upon generations of American Indians that suffered genocide, dislocation, and other unspeakable patterns of violence on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels,” stated Anthony R. Pico, former chairman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, host tribe of the conference.
He added, “It's a deep festering and unhealed wound that continues to cripple and kill our people.”
As Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, known as the mother of the impact of historical trauma on Native Americans, explained, “Historical Trauma is the cumulative emotional and physciological wounding over one’s lifetime passed from generation to generation, following loss of lives, land and vital aspects of culture. Sadly, as parents and grandparents we pass our depressions, addictions, poor parenting skills, and social malfunctiing as individuals and communities onto our children.”
“This conference focus was chosen to respect the view and counsel from Native Elders, who believe that ‘Calling Upon the Warrior Sprit to heal is a Native remedy to confront the conditions of trauma that are seen in many social, medical and spiritual needs of Indian populations,’” said White.
He further stated that the “Elders advise that the Warrior Spirit awaits our embrace as a living vibrant being that has been present in Indian Country for generations and is the force, healing power, essence and foundation that the creator gave us to heal.
“Along with modern research, counseling and treatment to our people impacted by Historical Trauma, the Warrior Spirit must be recognized to provide holistic healing for Native communities. The Warrior Spirit to be most effective, is best put to work as the center of comprehensive tribal initative.”
In addition to experts, like White, from many fields working in Native-oriented programs and social services, the conference Key Note Speaker is Dr. Vincent j. Felitti, the foremost expert on childhood trauma.
Dr. Felitti, a renowned physician and researcher, is leading the charge in research into how adverse childhood experiences affect adults. He is co-principal investigator of the internationally recognized Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, a long-term, in-depth, analysis of over 17,000 adults. Defying conventional belief, this study famously revealed a powerful relationship between our emotional experiences as children and our physical and mental health as adults. In fact, the ACE study shows that humans convert childhood traumatic emotional experiences into organic disease later in life. Revolutionary at its inception, Felitti’s groundbreaking research remains extremely relevant to today’s healthcare models.
“The 10 key events found in the ACE’s study, from sexual abuse, exposure to violence, addicted parents, negative or cruel parenting, are extremely relevant to generational trauma in Indian country,” stated Pico.
“Because by whatever indicator you use, Indian County statistically exceeds all other groups in suffering the consequences of childhood trauma, from poverty, addictions, sexual violence and abuse, crime and homicide, poor educational and employment performance, disease and early death.
“It’s critical that the source of these trauma inducing behaviors be understood and eliminated in Indian Country if we are to thrive not just painfully struggle to survive, as victims of Historical Trauma,” Pico explained
The conference is dedicated to Kenneth G. White Sr.
The conference fee is $150 dollars per person, and is waived for Elders over 55 years of age. The fee includes a 2-night night stay at the Viejas Casino and Resort, as well as meals. To register or for further information on the agenda and bios of participants, go to vieajs.com/warriorspirit/. For Hotel registration, call 619.659.2444.