“Overall, Native communities have the highest rate of socio-economic distress.”
– Dr. Rebecca Sockbeson, Penobscot Tribal Citizen, University of Alberta
Intergenerational trauma, also known as historical trauma, is defined as increasing emotional and psychological wounding across generations that stems from massive group trauma. The massive group trauma experienced by Native people has occurred across generations beginning with the taking of their land, lives (through murder, bounties, war and disease), children (through residential schools, adoption and foster care), language, spiritual practices and impoverishment. The taking of Native people’s traditional ways of dealing with grief compounds the impact of trauma by undermining their capacities to care for one another and to promote healing from these harms.
According to Abadian, “The collective traumas of colonization affected nearly 100% of indigenous peoples. Healthy childrearing practices were disrupted or warped by involuntary boarding schools. Native spiritual practices and traditions were banished and missionaries often replaced them with foreign religious forms that tore apart the community’s social cohesion. It is like an epidemic hitting a society when its doctors and healers have been exterminated. No one escapes the ravage.” (Lambert, 2008).
Wabanaki people – Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet and Micmac – have experienced such trauma and have had their traditional ways taken from them. Unresolved, this trauma shows itself in many ways in Native families and communities. Emotional and mental health challenges, health problems and high mortality rates, substance abuse, family violence and other socio-economic distress are common in those who experience intergenerational trauma.
The film, Wabanaki: A New Dawn, appears by permission of the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission (MITSC,) which commissioned and owns its rights. It can also be viewed on the MITSC Vimeo channel.
The Wabanaki, the People of the Dawn Land, have lived in what is now Maine and Maritime Canada for more than 11,000 years. It was not until the early 1600s that Europeans came to live in the territory inhabited by an estimated 32,000 Wabanaki. This contact was disastrous. From 1616 to 1619, 90% of the Wabanaki died. During the thousands of years prior to contact, the Wabanaki lived according to their spiritual connection to Mother Earth. They have preserved this connection, passing on their values orally from one generation to the next.
“Wabanaki: A New Dawn” shows the quest for cultural survival by today’s Wabanaki – the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Peoples. The voices in the film offer hope that the Wabanaki will use their cultural and spiritual inheritance to survive and thrive in the third millennium.