Intergenerational Healing

   - What We Carry

   - for Our Ancestors

   - Serene Thin Elk

Serene begins her TED talk by honoring her cultural heritage, speaking in her Lakota Nakota language, which she describes as a revolutionary act given the historical attempts to eradicate it through assimilation. She shares her personal journey into understanding intergenerational trauma, sparked by a profound dream she had in her twenties while experiencing emotional and psychological challenges in Boston. In the dream, she found herself at the bottom of the ocean with 13 others and a mystical woman who demonstrated the sacred nature of water and its creative power, setting the stage for Serene's deeper exploration into healing and resilience inherited from her ancestors.

The talk delves into the mechanisms of intergenerational trauma, with Serene explaining how traumas experienced by previous generations leave biological marks through epigenetics and influence behavior across generations. She links these insights specifically to the Native American experience, detailing how systemic oppressions, such as the boarding school era, have perpetuated cycles of abuse and trauma. These schools, aimed at assimilating Native children by stripping away their indigenous identities, inflicted deep psychological scars, contributing to ongoing issues in Native communities, such as high rates of alcoholism and suicide.

Serene further discusses the concept of internalized oppression, where individuals begin to accept and perpetuate the negative beliefs about themselves taught by oppressive systems. This often results in lateral oppression, where members of marginalized communities may turn against one another, stemming from unhealed traumas and a lack of understanding on how to navigate their healing journey. She highlights the importance of community and culturally specific healing practices that reconnect individuals to their roots and humanity.

The narrative shifts to a more personal note as Serene shares the story of her late brother, who also struggled with the effects of intergenerational trauma and addiction. His story illustrates the personal and familial dimensions of historical trauma but also underscores the potential for individual healing and the importance of remembering and honoring those we have lost. Serene emphasizes that while the journey is fraught with challenges, it is also filled with opportunities for profound personal growth and healing.

She advocates for a broadened perspective on healing that includes both clinical interventions and a return to traditional practices that strengthen community ties and individual sense of belonging. Through stories like the Bigfoot Ride, an event that honors ancestors and helps heal collective wounds, she illustrates how ritual and remembrance play vital roles in community healing.

In concluding her talk, Serene invites the audience to consider what they carry for their ancestors, encouraging them to face inherited fears and anxieties as gateways to transformative healing. She reflects on the symbolic power of water, recalling the tranquility her brother found even amidst his struggles, suggesting that peace and resolution are possible through the acknowledgment and integration of past traumas.

Serene's talk, rooted in personal experience and broadened to encompass communal narratives, offers a poignant look at the power of healing intergenerational wounds through connection to culture, community, and the deep, often painful introspection that leads to liberation and wholeness. Her message is a call to honor the past while actively working to create a more healed future for oneself and one's community.

Journal and reflect on the following questions for 20 minutes
  1. Understanding Trauma: How does the concept of intergenerational trauma provide a framework for understanding challenges faced by indigenous and other marginalized communities today?
  2. Personal Reflection: Can you identify any patterns or behaviors in your own family that might reflect past traumas or hardships experienced by previous generations?
  3. Role of Culture in Healing: In what ways can cultural practices and traditions play a role in healing intergenerational traumas? How can individuals and communities reconnect with these roots?
  4. Impact of Historical Policies: How do historical policies, like the boarding school era for Native Americans, continue to affect the communities targeted by these policies?
  5. Biological and Behavioral Transmission: What are some examples of how trauma can be transmitted biologically (through epigenetics) and behaviorally across generations?
  6. Healing Strategies: What strategies can be effective in healing the wounds of intergenerational trauma, and how can these be implemented both individually and communally?
  7. Active Participation in Healing: What are some practical steps you can take to contribute to the healing of intergenerational traumas within your community or family? What resources might you need to do so effectively?

Native American Healing Song - Lakota Peyote

Jimmy Knight, Jr. - Navajo Healing Songs

Song - Healer - by Kari Jobe

Final Prayer

Gracious Creator, we seek Your wisdom and compassion as we acknowledge the deep wounds carried across generations. Guide us in healing the scars left by historical injustices, empowering us to break the cycles of trauma with love and understanding. Help us to reconnect with our roots and cultural traditions as sources of strength, and inspire us to support one another in our journeys toward healing. Grant us courage and clarity to carry forward the legacy of our ancestors with honor, transforming pain into purpose for the betterment of future generations. Amen.

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26 May 2024

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Interfaith Dialogue

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