This dissertation describes a qualitative research study that was conducted in order to deconstruct the notion of trauma using a resiliency framework in one Pueblo Indian community in New Mexico. Trauma is widely discussed in relation to mental health issues impacting Indigenous peoples worldwide, as demonstrated in my review of the literature and throughout this work. Yet, the result of most research tends towards pointing out deficiencies in Indigenous communities. Rarely, if ever, is trauma explored through a strengths-based and resiliency approach. This study represents the first attempt to do so in and with a Pueblo Indian community. As a Pueblo researcher working with my own community of Kewa, my goal was to go back to the very people consistently being studied, that is, the Indigenous community, and to re-examine what is trauma, including its definitions and with a focus on local culturally-based interventions.
This work is broken down into three components that are woven together through the common theme of understanding, deconstructing, and addressing trauma: a journal article, book chapter and policy brief. The journal article is titled: “Walking the Path: A Pueblo Journey through Trauma and Healing.” The journal article begins by reviewing concepts on trauma and resilience documented in a literature. I both review the literature and offer critiques from the perspective of a Pueblo Indian researcher working in the field of health. This segues into my dissertation study. A series of eight qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted using an interview guide with open-ended questions. I found that participants reported ample evidence of both trauma and resilience, documenting the need for further research in this area and, most importantly, a values-based intervention. Critical in my research findings is that participants revealed the types of trauma relevent to Pueblo people, which points to our understanding of local issues that may also resonate with the experiences of other Indigenous peoples but that are intended to speak to Pueblo communities. Through my research, I consistently assert that understanding trauma also includes the need to document how Pueblo people have coped and overcome their trauma. These forms of resilience were also documented in the findings.
The book chapter is titled, “Using Pueblo Values to Heal from Trauma.” This section of the dissertation details Pueblo values and the implications on trauma. Pueblo values are described in detail based on my research and explicated in relation to theory that I propose. In this book chapter, I argue that these Pueblo values play an integral role in how we cope and heal from trauma. To summarize what participants explained, the idea is proposed that following these values will lead you to “the right path.” Suggestions for an ideal intervention based on participant interviews include the development of a values-based curriculum whose success is contingent on following Pueblo values that teaches values as defined by the Pueblo community.
My dissertation concludes with a policy section that focuses on “Finding the Path when you have Fallen Off.” This section talks about “cultural freezing” and the need to integrate positive cultural identity in youth, who are especially vulnerable in Indigenous communities, through the development of a values-based curriculum. The policy section will focus on the implications of trauma concepts defined for Native People that have demonstrated the need to process trauma. In order to process trauma, culturally-relevant frameworks and curricula such as “Transcending the Trauma” or “Gathering of Native Americans” (GONA) have been developed to help guide communities to begin the conversation around trauma. These discussions help to raise awareness around trauma and help people begin their healing journey. However, these developed concepts, frameworks and curricula have only started the journey and now there is a significant need for interventions to sustain recovery from trauma. These interventions also must include levels of individual and community readiness to address trauma and align with the values of the community and individual. It is a step we need to take to decolonize education and unfreeze culture