Historical Trauma and Cultural Embeddedness in the Lakota People: Links to Narrative Characteristics

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This study examined the lasting effects of historical trauma on the Lakota people. In particular, I was interested in the links between cultural embeddedness, experiences with historical trauma and its modern-day consequences, and the ways in which Lakota persons talk about their lives and their identities. To this aim, I conducted semi-structured interviews with 18 individuals on the Rosebud Reservation (Mage = 46.7 years, 66% female, 89% Lakota); most individuals served in helping professions within the community. Following the completion of the interviews, the transcripts were coded both globally and lexically (i.e., word count, % Lakota word usage, % first person pronoun usage). In terms of global codes, I coded the narratives for mention of historical trauma (i.e., boarding school attendance, distrust of outsiders, poverty, views of education as a tool of assimilation, corruption of government), evidence of cultural embeddedness (i.e., Lakota identity, amount of time spent on the reservation, participation in cultural ceremonies, positive views of Lakota spirituality, mention of Lakota traditional health methods), and views of tribal membership. I then conducted a series of linear regressions to explore the relationships between lexical narrative qualities and the coded narrative themes.

These analyses revealed that individuals who used more first person pronouns were less likely to mention historical trauma and were less culturally embedded. Furthermore, individuals who mentioned blood quantum as a metric of tribal membership also evidenced less cultural embeddedness than those who did not mention blood quantum. Finally, and in contrast to some conceptual models of indigenous identity, the percentage of Lakota language use was unrelated to either historical trauma or cultural embeddedness. Taken together, these findings have implications for both the ways in which we conceptualize Native identity as well as potential client-patient relationships when working with indigenous persons.

Faculty Mentor

Sarah Bunnell

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