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Sunday December 10th 2017

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BYI Circle of Healing Practitioners Highlight: Beyond Historical Trauma

by Nancy Bordeaux and Phoebe Iron Necklace

Six years ago, Nancy Bordeaux and I crossed paths at a Native American naming ceremony for my Grandson. Our conversation subsequently revolved around the powerful responsibilities we “Oceti Sakowin win” were entrusted to uphold within our respective families and communities. Fast forwarding the significance of this story, the seed of our initial conversation softened and sprouted roots. We found ourselves conducting outreach and networking with women of the Seven Council Fires whose people speak the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota dialects and language. The Oceti Sakowin is the formal name of our indigenous nation. Therefore, it was under our nation’s protocols that we converged and stood as a group to sing prayer, healing, and women’s songs. In the process, we committed ourselves to reinvigorate our personal lives with health and healing in this sacred and collective manner. Our newfound capacity enabled us to encircle and confidently guide our young girls, the next generation, toward their entrance into womanhood and a courageous journey.

The presentations are designed to validate our conditions. However, our focus is with the intentions of strength- based applications. The drive and power behind our approach is driven by the work of the spirit. For us prayer, ritual and compassion are interwoven into all aspects of our work and presentations. No matter the tribal affiliations, we know we share basic philosophies of relationships, compassion, generosity and respect. This has framed our work together as women. Finally, a year ago we collaborated with the Cultural Wellness Center and the Backyard Initiative to do a series of forums in the Indian community called “Beyond Historical Trauma”.

Historical Trauma Response has become the catch phrase to heal within our communities, but all too often we have witnessed profound loss, anger and resentment as the wounds of history are again brought to light. Indigenous people throughout this land have recognized the need to, not only describe the condition, but offer healing that comes from our own healing ceremonies/rituals.

This land belonged to over 500 tribes across the country of what is now called the United States. Each tribe had its own language and way of life. As the Europeans invaded westward, they virtually destroyed a people’s way of life, and all tribes were subjected to a policy of assimilation or annihilation. Organized religion interceded with a savior mentality that continues to foster divisions within communities already distressed and impoverished.

Within urban communities’, families were effectively removed through a policy called relocation. Generations of families were isolated from their homelands while desperately trying to cling to a way of life that culminated on the urban streets throughout the country. The activist communities’ recognized this and stood up to the powers that be, advocating for equal access to health, education and welfare. The voices of indigenous peoples were being heard, and services were delivered. Non-profits were abounding and the people believed they arrived.

The senior centers picked up the elders, bringing them to congregate dining and afternoons of Bingo. The buses came and picked up the youth to bring them to culturally specific activities while the elder sat at home. Families became more fractionated. The fathers were more often than not, not involved in the family. The youth turned to their mother’s and aunties to answer their deepest question, “Who am I?” Generations upon generations were becoming sicker and more isolated, becoming less accountable for the greater good, but just trying to live as individuals.

As we began our work of collaborating with the Cultural Wellness Center and The Backyard Initiative we began to work with our people to answer this question through the series of forums called “Beyond Historical Trauma”; Session 1: Beyond Historical Trauma using our culture and rituals for healing; Session 2: Historical Trauma, Walking in Two Worlds; Session 3: Life cycles’; Session 4: Traditional Life Ways using the Medicine Wheel Teachings; and, Session 5: Mental Health Disorders, Translating and Treatment. We have been honored to have been able to deepen our work within our community.

The depth of our discussions came from the hearts of all of the participants who joined us in this journey of reimagining our strength and resilience. One woman in particular attended every session, and her feedback encouraged us to continue. Another elder gentleman came out of curiosity and encouraged us to continue in our healing work. This elder man has done extensive work with the Department of Health and has monitored the health disparities from the beginning to current. In his words, it is this depth of healing intervention that will help to reduce health disparities.

For more information, contact Phoebe Iron Necklace, pironnecklace@comcast.net

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