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Historical Trauma & Family Engagement Strategies. For Educators & Families . OBJECTIVES . Become acquainted with the boarding school era & the history of Indian Education. Understand the impact of Historical Trauma on student learning.

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  • Become acquainted with the boarding school era & the history of Indian Education.
  • Understand the impact of Historical Trauma on student learning.
  • Learn strategies to engage Native students & families in our schools.

Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean on October 12th 1492 to encounter a diverse Indigenous population. Columbus had an uncontrollable lust for gold. He enslaved thousands of Taino people, launching an insidious genocidal ideology in North America.

“…they were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features....They would make fine servants....With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.“

-Christopher Columbus


By 1496, 4 million Indigenous people had died by slavery, torture, murder, disease, and terrorism.

By 1535, an entire culture was decimated. An estimated 8-10 million people dead.

"The destruction of the Indians of the Americas was, far and away, the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world."

~David E. Stannard.

what is genocide
What is Genocide?
  • United Nations Convention on Genocide in 1948 defines characteristics of Genocide:
  • Killing members of the group causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The systematic killing of all the people from a national, ethnic, or religious group, or an attempt to do this.

historical trauma
Historical Trauma

Cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations, emanating from massive group trauma.

- Dr. Maria YellowHorse-BraveHeart

traumatic events
Traumatic Events
  • Warfare/Biological Warfare
  • Loss of land base & resources
  • Ongoing treaty violations
  • Relocation/Removal
  • Reservation confinement
  • Prohibition of spiritual & cultural practices
  • Forced sterilization
  • Community massacres
  • Indian mascots
  • Boarding schools/assimilation
  • Introduction to alcohol
historical timeline
Historical Timeline

1616 – Smallpox decimates Native population in New England

1831 – Supreme Court Case between Cherokee Nations vs. Georgia

1851 – Fort Laramie Treaties were signed

1853 – Extermination of tribes in California

1862 – 38 Dakota hung in Mankato

1876 – Battle of Little Big Horn

1877 – U.S. Govt. seized the Black Hills in violation of treaty agreement

1887 – Dawes (Allotment) Act

1889 – Ghost Dance Movement begins

1890 – Over 300 Lakota were massacred at Wounded Knee, South Dakota

1893 – Boarding School Policy

1917 – More than 17,000 Indians enlist in military during WWI

1924 – American Indians are granted citizenship

historical timeline1
Historical Timeline

1928 – Meriam Report published illustrating dire situation of Indians

1934 – Johnson O’Malley Act established

1944 – National Congress of American Indians established

1953 – Termination & Relocation Era

1968 – American Indian Movement & Women of All Red Nations

1972 – Indian Education Act

1978 – Indian Child Welfare Act

1978 – Indian Religious Freedom Act

1990 – Native Language Act

1996 – Clinton declares Nov. National American Indian Heritage Month

1996 – Colbell vs. Salazar was filed

2005 – Red Lake School Shooting

2006 – Minneapolis School Board signs historic Memorandum of Agreement

boarding school education
Boarding School Education
  • Mandatory attendance
  • Military style regiment
  • Speak only English
  • Become Christian
  • Learn farming, a trade, or service skill
  • Shame of culture and cultural practices
  • Assimilation
trauma brain development
Trauma & Brain Development
  • When a developing brain processes consistent violence or trauma:
  • Neuron receptors cannot make healthy connections
  • Increases heart rate & develops cardiovascular abnormalities
  • Programs the brain to signal body to respond in a hyper-vigilant & unpredictable pattern

The human brain is remarkable organ capable of absorbing & storing more bits of information than any other species.

symptoms of trauma
Symptoms of Trauma
  • High suicide rate
  • High mortality rate
  • High alcoholism/substance abuse rates
  • Domestic violence
  • Child abuse
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety/Stress related illnesses
  • Anger
  • Shame
  • Fear/Distrust
  • Loss of concentration
  • Isolation
  • Loss of sleep
  • Uncomfortable in institutions
  • Gang activity
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Hypervigilent
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Poverty
trauma student learning
Trauma & Student Learning
  • Symptoms of trauma that are not compatible to student learning include:
  • Poor sleeping & eating habits
  • Irritable, hypersensitive & aggressive behavior
  • Extreme temper tantrums
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Problems with concentration or memory
  • Socially withdrawn
  • High anxiety
  • Misinterpretation of verbal & non-verbal cues
  • Impulsive actions
  • Poor self regulation & time management
cultural identity
Cultural Identity

Acculturation is a TEMPORARY state.

A process by which an individual or group socially adapts to a new situation

Assimilation is a PERMANENT state.

A process by which an individual or group is absorbed into another group or culture.

if we didn t experience the trauma how could we have symptoms
If we didn’t experience the trauma, how could we have symptoms?
  • First degree relatives of those with PTSD have a higher rate of anxiety and substance abuse
  • Children of substance abusers attempt suicide at a higher rate
  • Children from parents with anxiety or depression have an increase risk of developing similar mood disorders.
strategies to engaging native students
Strategies to Engaging Native students
  • Be respectful with students
  • Build trust by showing kindness, honesty & openness
  • Get to know student
  • Create a positive environment
  • Be fair and sincere
  • Provide options or choices in assignments
  • Teach units that reflect Native American culture & history
  • Make students accountable & require them to do the work
  • Have a sense of humor!
  • Use hands on activities
  • Utilize a softer tone of voice
  • Play music & provide creative opportunities
  • Find experiential learning opportunities to fulfill academic standards
  • Use Ojibwe/Dakota words when possible
  • Build upon student strengths & interests
further resources
Further Resources
  • “The Canary Effect”, a 2006 documentary by Robin Davey & Yellow Thunder Woman
  • “Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life”, a 2011 book by Diane Wilson
  • “Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask”, a 2012 book by Dr. Anton Treuer
  • “Kill the Indian, Save the Man”, a 2003 book by Ward Churchill
  • “American Holocaust”, a 1992 book by David Stannard
  • “In the White Man’s Image”, a 2007 PBS film hosted by David McCullogh
  • “Rethinking Columbus”, a 1996 book for teachers edited by Bigelow & Peterson
  • Sorkness, Harold L., and Lynn Kelting-Gibson. "Effective Teaching Strategies for Engaging Native American Students." (2006): 1-16. Web.
  • Our Spirits Don't Speak English: Indian Boarding School. Dir. Chip Richie. Perf. Grace Thorpe. 2008. DVD.
  • "History of Indian Education - OIE." History of Indian Education - OIE. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 June 2014.
  • "Indian Education Department." Indian Education Department. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 June 2014.
  • Beardslee, WR & Wheelock, I.(1994). Children of parents with affective disorders: Empirical findings and clinical implications. In W.M. Reynolds & H.F. Johnson (Eds) Handbook of depression in children and adolescents (pp.463-479). New York: Plenum.
  • Segal, B. (in press) Personal violence and historical trauma among Alaska Native pre-teen girls, and adolescent girls and women in treatment for substance abuse, in Brave Heart, DeBruyn, Segal, Taylor, & Daw (Eds) Historical Trauma within the American experience: Roots, effects and healing. New York: Haworth Press.
  • Brave Heart, M.Y.H.(2003). The historical trauma response among Natives and its relationship with substance abuse: a Lakota illustration, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 35(1), 7-13.