• (HT) is cumulative emotional and psychological wounding, over the lifespan and across generations, emanating from massive group trauma experiences. The historical trauma response (HTR) is a constellation of features in reaction to this trauma.

 DR. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart is Oglala/Hunkpapa Lakota. She is the woman who developed the theory of Historical Trauma and the interventions for helping American Indian and    other indigenous people with these issues. She is an associate professor at Columbia University and has developed the curriculum for historical trauma training.

Email:  historicaltrauma@gmail.com


Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart Historical Trauma:

Tribes confront painful legacy of Indian boarding schools

Genevieve Williams lies in failing health in her daughter’s small house on the Tulalip Reservation, haunted by powerful memories.

Children pose in front of the girls dormitory building at the Tulalip Indian School in 1912.

She sees herself as a little girl. Marching everywhere in a line. Scrubbing floors on her hands and knees. Being forced to stand silent for hours in a dark hall. Watching children get strapped for speaking their native language.

“I got to know that strap,” she said. “Everybody knew what that strap was for, hanging inside the door.”

It was especially bad for girls who wet the bed. Dresses pulled up and underwear pulled down, they were beaten. “We all had to line up and watch.”

At age 85, Williams bears witness to a dark and unfinished chapter in American history: the Indian boarding school era.

Increasingly, the damage from that early abuse, loneliness and lack of love is being seen as a major factor in ills that plague tribes today, passed from one generation to the next and manifesting in high rates of poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence, depression and suicide.

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Economy and social status
The United States is home to 2.4 million Native Americans. In comparison to the rest of the population, this number is a very small amount (only .9%). American Indians have historically lived in extreme poverty. With the rise of Indian gaming enterprises, the problem of poverty seems to have disappeared. However, upon closer examination, we have found that this is not the case.

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