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2017-11-30 / Voices

We Have The Strength To Overcome Historical-Trauma

BY VI WALN
SICANGU LAKOTA

Today is Native American Heritage Day in the United States. It’s also one of the biggest shopping days in our modern commercial society. Customers are getting a jump start on Christmas shopping by cashing in on Black Friday sales.

When you live on an Indian reservation marked by abject poverty, Black Friday deals are often limited to just viewing the photos of the trending products advertised on television or the internet. November and December are just like any other time of the year for many living on Indian reservations; people struggle to pay utility bills and buy food just like they do every month. In many cases, there is nothing left to purchase Christmas gifts or food for a big dinner.

November is designated as Native American Heritage Month. This is also the time of year when our historical or intergenerational trauma is triggered. We will remember many traumatic events over the coming weeks.

Several historical dates are approaching in which our ancestors were slaughtered by the US military forces. How ironic for the US government to declare Black Friday as Native American Heritage Day when it coincides with the start of some of the bloodiest anniversaries in our memory.

For example, on November 27, 1868, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer attacked Chief Black Kettle’s band of Cheyenne near the Washita River in Oklahoma. Black Kettle had been promised safety by the nearby Commander of Fort Cobb. The massacre resulted in the death of the Chief and 103 of his people, many of which were women and children.

Another event in our collective memory is the November 29, 1864 massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho people at Sand Creek in Colorado. Most of the people killed were women and children. Soldiers also mutilated many bodies and paraded through nearby towns displaying the bloody genitals of women.

Back then, mutilated body parts were called redskins, since they were freshly stained with the victims’ blood. There were often posters advertising cash payments to people who turned in fresh redskins. Today, the world knows redskins as a football team’s mascot. They can’t understand why we are offended.

December is a traumatic month for the Lakota/ Dakota/Nakota people. Chief Sitting Bull was murdered on December 15, 1890 on the present day Standing Rock reservation by Lakota police officers. In addition, President Lincoln gave the order that resulted in the mass execution of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, Minnesota on December 26, 1862.

And the most infamous massacre was at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890, when the 7th Cavalry murdered Chief Big Foot’s band and left their bodies to freeze after a blizzard hit the area. The murdered Lakota were buried in a mass grave that is now visited by hundreds of tourists every summer.

Even though the government recognizes modern-day tribes by designating November as Native American Heritage Month, that honor means nothing to many of us who experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) deep in our genes. Consequently, there is an upswing of substance abuse during the last 2 months of the year. Many of us believe that increased drinking and drugging is due to the PTSD carried in our collective memory.

We can overcome the effects of historical or intergenerational trauma. It takes an effort by the individual to recognize trauma and begin the hard work to release it. Letting go of trauma isn’t easy and it can be extremely painful. Yet, it’s the only way we will heal.

Many of us are in denial about the effect historical or intergenerational trauma has on our family. If you look at today’s society, there are young people and children suffering horribly on our reservations. The majority of this suffering is likely caused by the trauma we carry in our collective memory.

As long as we do nothing to heal the trauma we carry, our children will continue to be abused, sexually molested and taken away from us by state sanctioned social workers. Our refusal to heal will result in more intergenerational trauma for our descendants.

I can’t tell you to heal, you have to do that on your own. We all have the strength to overcome the obstacles in front of us to begin walking the path to healing. Lakota prayer and ceremony have healed many of us. When you make a conscious effort to work on healing the historical trauma you carry, it will have a positive effect on your children and grandchildren.

Ask for healing in your daily prayer and then be ready to embrace it.

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