American Indians hold a unique status among ethnic minorities in the United States. American Indians faced great adversity, violence, and trauma because of the invasion of Europeans and Western values to their homelands – now called the Americas. The American Indian experience of massacres, widespread disease, forced relocation, forced removal of children, and prohibition of spiritual and cultural practices contributes to a history of cultural and ethnic genocide. The trauma and losses experienced by American Indians is conceptualized as a collective grief that is both historic and ongoing, and referred to as historical trauma (HT). Until now, the experiences of HT and alternative responses of HT of the Yavapai-Apache Nation not been explored.
This paper explores the presence of HT among individuals who did not directly experience events of HT, and ways those individuals dealt with the impact of HT. Pathological outcomes may not be universal responses to HT for a sample of Yavapai-Apache Nation college graduates, as evidenced by their academic success, positive life outcomes, and resilience.
This paper utilized an Indigenous research methodological framework. Conversational interviews were conducted with six enrolled members of the Yavapai-Apache Nation, over the age of 30 years and who have obtained a Bachelor’s degree. Interviews elicited knowledge of tribal and family history, connection with the American Indian community and personal effects of HT. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and presented as portrait vignettes, a qualitative approach congruent with Indigenous methodologies.
Four themes emerged including Family, Identity, Survival and Intersection. The co-researchers’ positive perception of family support provided the encouragement needed to cope with various experiences, including school, raising families, career goals and imparting teachings to children or youth within the community. Identity indicated the co-researchers’ experiences of effects of HT through the loss of language, culture and identity. While losses were ongoing, they acknowledged the necessity of identity re-vitalization. Despite hardships, the co-researchers acknowledge survival as a collective effort and is achieved by an individual’s efforts within the group. The co-researchers described their personal understanding of education and success and discussed how they contribute to the survival of the Yavapai-Apache Nation. Intersection indicated the stories and experiences in which the themes of family, identity and survival intersected with one another.
Conclusion and Implications:
The current approach to addressing health disparities and symptoms of HT subscribe to Western belief systems and ignores the Indigenous experience and perspective. Exploration of the manifestations and prevalence of HT from an Indigenous perspective are necessary. This paper highlights the strengths and resilience of YAN community members and revealed the presence of HT among individuals who did not directly experience events of HT and ways those individuals dealt with the impact of HT. In fact, pathological outcomes are not universal responses to HT for this sample of YAN college graduates, as evidenced by their academic success, positive life outcomes, and resilience. The co-researchers provided insight into how to navigate the impact of HT in ways that result in successful life outcomes.