"You heal the spirit" : Anishnabe adaptations to historical loss and trauma

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2015-08

Authors

Brissette, Charlene Nicole

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Abstract

Native American and Indigenous populations around the world face disproportionately higher rates of disease and mortality. There are many nuanced factors that contribute to this, but a common underlying theme is that they’ve all dealt with some form of oppression by colonialism. Native people today still feel the effects of historical trauma as it reverberates through generations that have directly experienced loss of land, language and culture. It’s important to examine the ways different tribal groups experience and perceive historical loss and trauma today in order to teach the next generation of tribal youth to carry on traditions and Indigenous knowledge. In this study we conducted four focus groups in a Midwestern Anishnabe tribe to examine the research question: What characteristics enable Native American people to cope with historical loss and trauma? Using a survey to supplement the focus group data, we also examined relationships among five variables: historical loss, historical loss associated symptoms, resilience, coping and sense of control. Results showed three over-arching themes that allowed our sample to make sense of historical loss and trauma, and trauma that is ongoing: Adaptations to Loss and Trauma, the Legacy Burden, and a Marked Protective Identity. Additionally, the survey results indicated that historical loss was significantly positively related to historical loss associated symptoms. Higher scores of resilience, percentage of adaptive coping, and perceived control were significantly related to lower scores on historical loss associated symptoms. The findings from this study indicate that loss and trauma are present within this community and having a collective Native identity provides strength in the form of resilience for multiple generations. Using the themes and relationships from this study the community can expand resources to facilitate growth of cultural reclamation and traditional knowledge.

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