I attended a lecture at Temple Beth Shalom in downtown Santa Fe this week. The subject matter was quite somber and yet highly relevant, and incredibly important. Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart and Dr. Eva Fogelman discussed the emotional, psychological, and sociological effects of the intergenerational historical trauma which affects Native American populations and descendants of Holocaust survivors.
Eva Fogelman, PhD, spoke first. Her specialization and expertise lie most significantly in Jewish-American populations and intergenerational trauma as a result of the Holocaust. The few generations of descendants of Holocaust survivors who exist tend to share similar relational problems and perspectives. These children and grandchildren of survivors commonly have attachment issues and experience their parents’ cut-off and isolation. Another present aspect of historical trauma is the compensatory behavior of generational survivors. These descendants often participate in behaviors of transposition; putting themselves in dangerous or abusive situations in an attempt to understand and process the experience of significant trauma. The final point of emphasis to Dr. Fogelman’s contribution was to specify the importance of acknowledgement and validation in the healing and recovery from historical trauma. There has decidedly been more official reparation and confirmation of the suffering of Holocaust survivors than of African-American, Asian-American, and Indigenous People, among others.
Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, PhD, concluded the presentation. She is a leader in the academic world and a strong voice of representation for the healing of trauma of Native People. She emphasized the role of unresolved grief as a primary component of the intergenerational trauma suffered by Native American people. This grief is not only limited to the survivors and descendants of the extreme number of those whose lives have been taken (possibly the most extreme genocide in world history). Grief is also necessary for the survivors and descendants of those who were and are abducted, brainwashed, raped, and otherwise abused. Dr. Yellow Horse Brave Heart accentuated the role of informed physical and mental health care services, as well as ceremony, in the necessary return to hope and empowerment of Native People.
Although both presenters focused primarily on specific populations, both offered tremendous insight into the problems suffered but all disenfranchised people in the United States who have suffered significant historical trauma. At the end of the discourse it was suggested by both parties that lecture attendees do their part in staying informed and informing others of the effects of racism and historical trauma. Dr. Fogelman suggested utilizing social media as a platform for education in these matters.