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INHERITED PAIN: Native Americans are learning how to deal with the wounds of the past

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NORMAN, Okla.— A concept that is only recently being not only fully understood but even accepted, intergenerational trauma, has affected every minority class in America, beginning from the very start of colonization and right up to the current injustices that are still being realized today. It’s an issue that the Love Project of Oklahoma, an “initiative geared towards educating and raising awareness about mental health and receiving treatment,” has been dealing with head-on in the African-American community to great effect.

They are currently teaming with Native activist Sarah Adams-Cornell and her inter-tribal female empowerment group Matriarch to expose and bring to the forefront the intergenerational trauma that continues to impact Native American lives with a special public event called “Native Trauma: Made in America,” a program that will focus on “environmental and social factors from the American culture that has caused psychological stress in the Native community.”

“Native trauma, from relocation to boarding schools, has torn the Native community apart and caused such an inter-generational impact that it’s become important that finally, we address it because we’re seeing the fallout from that trauma in multiple ways throughout our community,” Adams-Cornell said. “We’re talking about mental health issues, high suicide rates among our people, chemical dependencies, alcohol dependency…we see it in so many ways. It’s cyclical, so we are really focused on breaking those cycles.”

Inviting mental health professionals, counselors and therapists as well as the public, many of whom “are able to share their stories for the first time,” Adams-Cornell said this is “really great opportunity” to finally have an open forum on this issue, starting with a history of Native traumas and then opening it up to the crowd for “conversations and discussion.”

“That fear of asking for help has everything to do with colonization because that was not our way,” Adams-Cornell said. “I think that part of it is the patriarchy and colonization took away so many of our traditions and ceremonies that kept us in a good space, being able to deal regularly with trauma. Thankfully, we have these incredible advocates in our community that are talking about the issues of mental health and suicide and the conversation is finally getting bigger.”

“Native Trauma: Made in America” will be held at 5 p.m. on October 21st at the Jacobson House Native Art Center, 609 Chautauqua Ave. in Norman, Oklahoma. Admission is free. Adams-Cornell believes that with so much focus on the physical health of Native Americans, the stigma of mental health among Natives and asking for help in dealing with these inherited traumas is finally making progress because, for the first time, there is a platform. But even then, she concedes “there is still a long way to go” as to how Natives are treated and served in the community.

“We’re not going to get any further in healing without conversation and removing the stigma of having that conversation,” Adams-Cornell said.” I know, for Native people, a lot of us we just bury it and move on and do the best we can with what we have, but talking about it, that’s healing within itself. These conversations could be the catalyst for greater healing of these traumas in our community. “

For more information, visit the Facebook event page

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Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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