Historical Trauma Essays Examples
Historical trauma refers to accumulative injuries to the mind and emotions, passed down from one generation to the next as a result of shocking (traumatic) events that have been encountered many times. Historical trauma response refers to the observable characteristic/behavior (internalized/externalized) resulting from displeasure with historical trauma (Weekly address5, 2014).
An example of historical trauma is the massacre of Natives at Wounded Knee. Hundreds of men, women, and children of the Lakota tribe were killed. This is a relevant example since the massacre caused great grief and emotional trauma for the Natives. It was also traumatic by symbolizing an end of the Ghost Dance which they perceived as their “last hope” against colonization (Weekly address2, 2014).
Boarding schools have caused Trauma by firstly having Native children stay away from their parents for long periods of time (Crow Dog & Erdoes, 1990). Secondly they caused trauma by having Native children lose their Native languages and being forced to speak English and adopt Euro-American culture. The children also were forced become Christians and to pray Like in the case of Crow Dog (Crow Dog & Erdoes, 1990). All these show cultural genocide which resulted in trauma. They were also traumatized with sexual assault and severe punishment (Crow Dog & Erdoes, 1990). All these depict psychological and emotional trauma.
Dakota 38 illustrates mechanisms of healing from Historical Trauma by first covering on instances of Historical Trauma such as the hanging of the 38 Lakota ancestors of Jim Miller in 1862 under the orders of President Lincoln (Youtube, 2013). This is followed by mechanisms of healing the trauma symbolized by retracing a route of 330 miles (Youtube, 2013). The importance of accountability by white perpetrators of trauma is also depicted. The film shows that Historical Trauma can be healed via steps like forgiveness and education programs to avert psychological torture and depression which may result from the traumatic experiences of the Natives.
RESISTANCE AND AGENCY
An example of resistance and agency is that of the Cherokee Nation refusing to negotiate for relocation from their ancestral lands in the American South to Oklahoma so that their land could be used by Euro-American farmers to expand their plantations.
During the 1820s, Euro-Americans in the American South began desiring more land and hence voted for Andrew Jackson as president so that they could obtain the land of the Cherokee and that of the other Civilized Tribes. In 1830, Andrew signed the Indian Removal Act which was to make the Natives in the American South relocate to where Oklahoma is located today. Natives like the Cherokee were considered to be Sovereign nations hence could not be legally relocated by the Indian Removal Act. The Cherokee dismissed negotiations for relocation from their ancestral land hence a sign of resistance. This made it necessary for the illegitimate Treaty of Echota to be made in 1835, which they also initially resisted, but were eventually violently removed from their lands by the government in 1838.
Paying attention to resistance in this case is important since it shows us how the Cherokee truly reacted to the initial pressures of eviction. It shows that the Cherokee held their ancestral land in high regard and were not going to easily cede it to the foreigners (Euro-Americans).
Highlighting resistance and agency in this course is vital since it helps us not to look at Natives as people who just passively watched their oppression but as people who made decisions to actively fight for what they thought was just (Weekly address1, 2014).
Termination era is the duration between the end of WWII and the early 1970s, when the American Federal government tried to destroy the identities of Natives and reservations (Nichols, 2003). The government wanted to end reservations and also do way with the sovereign status of Natives as a people with pre-contact relations with the U.S. and having unique legal statuses. The Termination era policies had 3 main foundations. The first was the House Concurrent Resolution 108 which aimed at giving Natives the all the privileges enjoyed by other Americans and doing away with Native sovereignty (Nichols, 2003). The second was the Public Law 280 which aimed at withdrawal from Indian business (Nichols, 2003). By “get out of Indian business” government meant that it had passed a law that would force the Native Nations to be under State jurisdiction (Nichols, 2003). The third foundation of the policies was the Urban Relocation Program which aimed to assist Natives on reservations in case they wanted to relocate to urban areas.
Changing attitudes about Natives from their involvement in WW II led to the Termination era by making Natives to be seen as “good American Citizens.” It also made the Indian Reorganization Act’s objectives to be perceived as not match the increasing nationalism. The feeling of being united as one nation increased the pressure to end reservations and have the Natives assimilated into the mainstream society which composed of whites (Nichols, 2003). The ideology that reservations were expensive also reemerged due to the rising nationalism hence the government had to solve this problem by formulating policies which resulted to what is called the Termination era (Nichols, 2003).
The termination era did not succeed because through relocation, different communities of natives from different regions were brought together in cities and united to form activist groups that advocated for Native goals such as sovereignty (Nichols, 2003).
The relocation program was a program that aimed to assist natives in reservations in situations where they wanted to move to the cities. This was by giving one-way transportation, a weekly payment until one got a job and was paid, and help to acquire amenities like houses and schools (Lobo, 2005). The program would involve vocational training for 18 to 35year-olds. There was also living allowance for those who relocated, and tuition fees for two years. One of its objectives for the government was to end government responsibility to the Natives in reservations (Lobo, 2005). Another objective was to make the Indians blend into the mainstream society and “disappear” in the large crowds in cities to end being reminded of the injustice committed to Natives (Lobo, 2005).
The experience was different from what was promised. Firstly it was biased towards low paying blue collar jobs (Lobo, 2005). Tuition fee was only given to those who wanted to train for low status careers like mechanics but not to those who wanted to study for white collar careers in colleges. Even with a stipend until a relocatee gets permanent employment, this had no more meaning for those employees who later lost their jobs (Lobo, 2005).
The relocation led to Pan-Tribal/Pan Indian Identity by having the Native people from communities unite rather than disappearing in the crowd. The residence of a relocated community in cities formed an intertribal centre for all Native communities where they shared their experiences of colonization which were often similar (Weekly Address5, 2015). The people united against oppression of their goals through colonization and the Termination era. This people fought the oppression as one community rather than distinct tribes whereby this created the Pan-Indian identity.
This led to great American Indian activism in the San Francisco Bay Area among others. In the San Francisco Bay Area, Richard Oakes (from the Mohawk tribe) led the as a major activist and led the plans to occupy Alcatraz Island on in the SF bay (“SF Bay,” 2014).
It led to the end of the Termination era and renewed tribal sovereignty and self-determination (Weekly Address5, 2015). This is the current phase in American Indian history.
This class has made me think of Think of Native Americans in a new way. It has made appreciate the struggles they have endured without giving up their course to maintain their pre-contact culture and sovereignty to this day. This class is relevant in my life since it has helped to understand why the Native people live in regions such as reservations and how they got there (such as through forced removal). This class has made me learn the historical injustices done by the American government against the Native Indians and appreciate their struggle for justice.
Crow Dog, M., & Erdoes, R. (1990). Lakota woman. New York: Grove Weidenfeld.
S.F Bay Area TV Archive. (2014). Native American Alcatraz Proclamation - San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive. Diva.sfsu.edu. Retrieved 15 January 2015, from https://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/sfbatv/bundles/209390
Lobo, S. (2002). Urban voices. Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press.
Nichols, R. (2003). American Indians in U.S. history. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
YouTube,. (2014). DAKOTA 38 - Full Movie in HD. Retrieved 15 January 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pX6FBSUyQI
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