"How Do We Forgive Our Fathers?": The Generational Trauma Model and Native Peoples, Issues, Similarities and Applications
During the 1970's to 90's, scholars in the fields of Jewish Studies, anthropology and sociology (notably, Hellen Epstein, Larry Langer and Yosef Yerushalmi), developed the idea of generational trauma theory, when analyzing the trauma inflicted upon European Jewish populations during the Holocaust. Epstein argues that trauma is passed down from generation to generation, while Langer argues that the second generation interprets the trauma in their own way. Other important terms in trauma theory include liturgical time, sites of memory, historical trauma and the historical trauma response. Scholars who analyze American Indian communities, like Yellow Horse Brave Heart and Durran/Durran, readily took up this theory, applying it to the Native American experience. One area where this theory has been applied to is the Native American Boarding School experience. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the efficacy of applying the post-Holocaust trauma theory to the Native American boarding school experience. In order to determine the effectiveness of the boarding schools, one must analyze the boarding school experience, beginning at the philosophical underpinnings of the boarding school, and then discussing the impacts that the boarding schools had on the students and finally, the impact that this had on the second generation. However, this approach has a number of flaws, such as the differences between native communities and post-Holocaust, American, Jewish communities, as discussed in the Philosophy of American Indian Studies. The length of the boarding schools was also longer than the length of the Holocaust. The fact that Native Americans faced repeated trauma, in a way that post-Holocaust American Jews did not. The trauma also changed for both native peoples and post-Holocaust Jews, making it difficult for there to be a single response to trauma. The philosophical bases of the Holocaust and boarding schools were also different. The post-Holocaust generational trauma approach also has a number of applications to native peoples. This includes the psychological aspect of trauma. The use of terminology by native scholars. Native peoples also developed concepts like sites of memory and liturgical time. Finally, both the post-Holocaust Jewas and Native Americans have used trauma for political ends. The conclusion is that post-Holocaust generational trauma theory has some applications to native peoples, but the application is limited. A scholar must take into careful consideration the native peoples who they are working with.