The U.S. Government Report Highlights Generational Trauma in Native Communities

Violence against Native communities has caused generations of pain and trauma that has a devastating impact on mental health. Feelings of anger and isolation stemming from colonization may feel deeper than ever.

If you need someone to talk to, text NATIVE or INDIGENOUS to 741741 to reach a volunteer Crisis Counselor.

Beginning in the early 1800s and continuing through the 1960s, American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian children were stolen or coerced by the U.S. government and religious institutions/organizations forced to attend Indian boarding schools, where they were stripped of their native names, languages, and traditions. On May 11, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, Deborah Haaland, released the first volume of a devastating report that found that more than 500 children died during the 150 years that these 408 government-run or supported schools were in operation. It gruesomely details the way the children were physically and sexually abused and identifies 53 gravesites connected to the schools. In addition to the deaths noted in the report, thousands of children enrolled in the schools were exposed to psychological, emotional, and physical abuse and their families have experienced generational trauma as a result.

This report is the first formal acknowledgment and documentation of official reckoning with the government’s history of forced assimilation, cultural genocide, and erasure of Native peoples. The federal government’s attempt to research and take account of this atrocity is a step in the right direction to acknowledge the magnitude of harm and injustice inflicted on Native American communities. 

At Crisis Text Line, our mission is to promote mental wellbeing for people wherever they are. We recognize these reports may bring up acute and generational trauma for American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian people, especially those who identify as part of a Tribal Nation or Indigenous community. Whether you’re confronting the grave reality of a lived experience or history that’s familiar to you, or if you’re learning about this for the first time, this information is likely to bring up challenging emotions. No matter what you’re feeling, we’re here to acknowledge your emotions, validate them, and help you find ways to cope. 

At Crisis Text Line, we’ve partnered with Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board and  Indian Health Service to ensure that Native people have access to our safe, confidential, and non-judgmental service to discuss the emotions this report brings to the surface. In addition, Crisis Text Line has worked with community leaders to be responsive to the unique needs and historical trauma associated with Indigenous communities.  If you need someone to talk to, text NATIVE or INDIGENOUS to 741741 to reach a volunteer Crisis Counselor. 

If you’re experiencing difficult emotions, here are some ways to cope:

  • Reach out for support. You don’t have to go through hard things alone. Text NATIVE or INDIGENOUS to 741741 to reach a Crisis Counselor. We’re here for you. 
  • Focus your mind. When you hear often about attacks against your community, it can be easy to get overwhelmed quickly. Try breathing for a few minutes with specific attention to every inhale and exhale. Deep breathing sends a message to your brain and your body to calm down. This video may be a useful place to start focusing on your breath. 
  • Connect with your community. In moments when you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed or isolated, it’s often helpful to surround yourself with people who love and care about you. Try reaching out to friends and family and be as specific as you can about how you want them to support you. If you’re looking for resources specific to the Native communities, here are a few resources to start: 
    • We R Native: Provides comprehensive health resources and information for Native youth, by Native youth. Includes information about culture, environment, mental health, physical health, relationships, life tips, spirituality, wellness, and activism.
    • Two Spirit and LGBTQ Health: Provides resources for Two Spirit and LGBTQ+ individuals and loved ones (third party) within the American Indian or Alaska Native community. Includes information on finding a provider, community support, mental health care, and legal rights.
    • BlackLine: Offers an anonymous hotline for the Black, Black LGBTQ+, Brown, Native, and Muslim community to confidentially report negative, physical, and inappropriate contact with police and vigilantes. No one will be turned away from the Hotline based on race.
    • Indian Health Services Find Healthcare: IHS provides an interactive map to find Indian Health Services, Tribal or Urban Indian Health Program facilities.
    • Indian Health Services Hotline for Reporting Child and Sexual Abuse: IHS runs a hotline dedicated to receiving reports of suspected child or sexual abuse within an IHS facility and/or by an IHS staff member. ​
    • NICWA: National Indian Child Welfare Association works to support the safety, health and well-being of American Indian or Alaska Native children.
    • Strong Hearts Helpline: StrongHearts offers a safe helpline & live chat for American Indian or Alaska Native people dealing with domestic/sexual violence.
    • I Know Mine: A holistic health resource for Alaska Native youth.

As we watch our country reckon with its past and present deep inequality, we can unite in empathy and support those who have had to live through centuries of trauma. You aren’t alone in these feelings and you don’t have to experience them alone.

We’re here if you need support. Text NATIVE or INDIGENOUS to 741741 to reach a volunteer Crisis Counselor. 

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