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Training Aims To Ease Pain Of Native American Historical Trauma

Native Wellness Institute

Native American students, faculty, and staff at the University of Wyoming in Laramie recently participated in a wellness training. The idea was to explore how to process trauma left behind by a dark history. 

Native Wellness Institute Trainer Robert Johnston is a member of the Muskogee Creek Tribe and said generations of suppressed language and culture, genocide and boarding schools have left intergenerational scars that manifest in people’s lives as negative behaviors like addiction, depression, illness, and abuse.

Johnston said many tribes have embraced the sobriety movement, but now it’s time to embrace a new movement.

“The wellness movement was about utilizing culture as a way of healing and moving forward from the impacts of historical and intergenerational trauma,” he said. “Across the nation, you saw more efforts to bring to light how can we use our teachings of our ancestors, how can we use our culture?”

Program Coordinator Jordan Cocker is a member of the Kiowa Tribe and a founding member of the “Indigenous 20-Something Project,” an effort to heal the millennial generation of Native youth.

“In this project, Indigenous 20 Somethings, we’ve witnessed hurt people hurting people and hurting themselves in our communities,” said Cocker. “And the ongoing trauma stops here, is the idea. If we can get together and as this movement builds, focus on that collective healing, focus on that collective impact.”

Trainer Robert Johnston agreed. He said, one example of that collective healing in action was the Standing Rock pipeline protests. But he said those protests may have hurt too.

“The act of protesting itself really didn’t do anything as far as healing. If anything, [it] added more trauma to a lot of people who were involved there. And when an event like that is left with a lot of hurt, hate, and mistrust, there isn’t a lot of healing that happened,” Johnston said. “But the healing happened with the gathering when the nations came together in support.”

The Native Wellness Institute started in Oklahoma and recently offered their training at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado and have plans for another training in Burns, Oregon. 

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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