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American Indian Mental Health. Jessica Gourneau, PhD & Angie Stratig, MSW LGSW American Indian Family Center. Medicine Wheel: Model of Wellness. Spiritual. Physical. Spirituality, culture & traditions, identity, ability to relax, living in harmony with other living beings, ceremonies.

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american indian mental health

American Indian Mental Health

Jessica Gourneau, PhD


Angie Stratig, MSW LGSW

American Indian Family Center

medicine wheel model of wellness
Medicine Wheel: Model of Wellness



Spirituality, culture & traditions, identity, ability to relax, living in harmony with other living beings, ceremonies

Health, safety, stability, housing, food, clothing, hygiene, nutrition, chemical awareness, sexuality



Education, employment, parenting, development, budgeting, historical awareness, problem solving

Relationships, intimacy, communication, resolving conflict, emotional regulation, stress, chemical aware- ness, sexuality

areas of focus

Areas of Focus


Roles of Men

Roles of Women

Remove the children

Prohibit native language

Roles of Elders

Impose religion, roles and language

Introduce alcohol

desired results of colonization
Desired Results of Colonization
  • Interrupt Balance and Harmony established by the traditions of the people you are colonizing
  • Confuse the Roles between the sexes
  • Interrupt connection between ancestors and future generations is lost
  • Break up Family structure
  • Change Community-based way of living to individualistic way of living
  • Create dependency on colonists for all physical needs
damage to wheel

Alcohol addiction

Poor diet: refined sugar, starches, “commodities”

Poor health

Inactive lifestyle


Alcohol addiction

Internalized helplessness

Connection to the Great Spirit is lost: lost ceremonies, identity, spirituality, traditions, etc.

Harmony with the Earth lost

Damage to Wheel
damage to wheel1

Alcohol addiction

Emotional detachment

Behavior problems

Self-hatred, invalidation

Ability to cope with stress

Attachment issues


Individualism vs. communal ways of life

Learning disrupted: conflicting learning styles, values being taught, etc.

Traditional parenting disrupted

Lost language

Damage to Wheel
  • Low acculturation, “traditional”
    • Rebellious against norms of mainstream
    • Live as close to the way ancestors did as possible
  • “Walking in both worlds”
    • Dual status
    • Schizophrenic in nature
  • Highly acculturated
    • May have little connection to the community
    • Very connected to mainstream values and culture
considerations when working with american indian children
Considerations when working with American Indian children
  • Eye contact- not always considered appropriate
  • Traditional learning styles include an observation period, followed by a “learn by doing it” period
  • Community-based vs. individual-based
  • Saying “bye”
  • Traditional American Indian culture is much different than mainstream culture, so DO NOT MAKE ANY ASSUMPTIONS…. ASK!
contact info
Contact Info

Jessica Gourneau, PhD


Angie Stratig, MSW LGSW

Program Manager- Family Support

American Indian Family Center

579 Wells St.

St. Paul, MN 55101

(651) 793-3803