Local Briefs
Historical Trauma of the American Indian People
Thursday, May 05 2016
Written by Nick Boswell,
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Historical trauma for American Indian peoples have encompassed wars, massacres, genocide, imprisonment, reservations, boarding schools and continued oppression and racism. The effects of historical trauma have had a horrific impact on the health and welfare of American Indian peoples for over 500 years – alcoholism and drug addiction, many health (including mental) issues, poor education, and poverty. All of this lands squarely on the shoulders of our children.

In September, 2000, Kevin Gover, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs described the effects of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) handling American Indian boarding schools, “They forbade the speaking of Indian languages prohibited the conduct of traditional religious activities, and made Indian people ashamed of who they were. Worst of all, the BIA committed these acts against children entrusted to its boarding schools, brutalizing them emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually. The trauma of shame, fear and anger has passed from one generation to the next, and manifest itself in the rampant alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic violence that plague Indian country.”

Alcoholism in American Indian communities nationwide is not only a critical health issue, but is the leading cause of death in these communities. In Minnesota between the years 2000 and 2007, according to the State of Minnesota Department of Human Services, 42% of American Indian deaths were related to alcohol abuse. These include motor vehicle accidents, suicide, homicide, alcohol poisoning, and heart and liver disease.

This stark picture has not changed for the past 20 years, and in fact is increasing with each new generation.
Our American Indian experience is the psycho-social impact, depending upon a particular tribe’s geographic location and historical experience, of from one to five hundred years of the most brutal genocide, ethnocide and forced acculturation the world has ever seen. The effect of this holocaustic experience for both the individual and the tribal group is, of course, trauma. The result of this trauma is a condition that has come to be known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD has a generic application and can be either acute or secondary. The secondary form is reactive and can have a major inter-generational effect or it can be passed on to children and grandchildren. Acute PTSD can be defined as the normal human reaction to severe trauma, shock or pain. Acute PTSD can occur within an individual as a result of dramatic environmental change, including involuntary displacement or relocation, or being in a natural disaster; as a result of physical, sexual, emotional or spiritual assault, abuse or neglect; as a result of war-like conditions, including experience in battle, experience as a prison-of-war, civil imprisonment, involuntary subjugation at a boarding school, experience in a concentration camp (which is what our reservations were at first), experience as a hostage (including experience with a violent, dominant spouse or suffering a long-term or terminal illness); or as a result of a loss of a close friend or relative to death.

Secondary PTSD can be defined as the normal human reaction by an individual who is in a close interpersonal relationship with someone who is suffering from acute PTSD. Usually this will include a member of the acutely traumatized individual’s nuclear and/or an extended family, a lover or a close friend.
Secondary PTSD can also have an inter-generational effect, and here is where it is most harmful. Those suffering from the reactive type of secondary PTSD often change their behavior patterns and actions in order to cope with the behavior of the person with acute PTSD. These usually negative reactive behaviors and actions can then become learned by the following generations as “normal” behaviors. People never know that what they have learned was not the way it traditionally was in their tribe. These patterns of behavior and actions are identical to those that are found in families of alcoholics and especially with adult children of alcoholics.

There are a number of phrases that persons go through and they are different for different kinds of trauma. For acute PTSD they include:
1. Impact, shock
2. Withdrawal, repression, submission, resignation, insensibility, emotional numbing
3. Regression, ambivalent anger, acceptance, acquiescence, unrealistic optimism, honeymoon
4. Compliance, anger, ambivalent anger, dependent aggression, disappointment, euphoria, emotional anesthesia
5. Trauma mastery, recovery, reconstruction, reorganization

There are a number of different psychological or behavioral symptoms that a person with acute PTSD will have and which ones they have and how severe the symptoms are depends upon what kind of trauma they experienced and how severe it was. In helping a person to face their experience and begin to heal themselves, you must let them know that some of these behaviors may get worse before they get better. Theirs is a normal reaction and the symptoms include: phobias, guilt, shame, blunted emotions, depression, anxiety, hostility, substance abuse, anger, fear, isolation, acting out, feelings of failure or helplessness, mental or verbal liability, increased or decreased sexual function, increased or decreased work function, paranoia, déjà vu, flashbacks, irritability, disassociation, or inefficiency.

There are also a number of psychophysiological symptoms that a person will experience. These symptoms may also get worse before they get better during the healing process and it is important that you let the person with acute PTSD know that this is normal. These symptoms include: Insomnia, nightmares, night tremors, bedwetting, sleepwalking or sleep talking, skin disorders, trembling, hypertension, hyper-alertness, sexual inhibition, diarrhea, digestive disturbances, back trouble, migraines, restlessness, distorted perceptions, fatigue, verbal-audio-speech disorders, weight loss or gain, anorexia, diaphoresis, or tachycardia.

The process of therapy for the acutely diagnosed individual is much like that done in grief therapy and the individual will follow the same stages of denial, acknowledgement, rage, acceptance and mastery. However, there are some important variables in each individual’s experience that must be considered:
1. Intensity of trauma
2. Type of trauma
3. Length of episode
4. Whether trauma is by human hand
5. Age of onset of trauma
6. Stage of individual’s development
7. Length of time since event

Once an individual is past the denial stage and acknowledges the episode(s) it is important that you validate the pain of the trauma, validate them as a human being and, let them know that is was not their fault and they are not alone. It is also important to remember that the experience of trauma creates a “victim mentality” within the individual that becomes part of their identity. You must always confront the individual’s behavior and thinking regarding this “victim mentality” or they will not heal.

With the secondary form of PTSD that is inter-generational, this “victim mentality” can become a part of the family’s, or overall tribal group’s, identity as well. This is especially true for tribal groups that experienced one or more group traumas or the group experienced a series of individualized traumas over the same period(s).
For the individual and the group it is extremely important to point out that they are not to blame for many of their behaviors, because they were learned from those suffering acute or secondary PTSD. It must also be pointed out that many of their parents and grandparents cannot be blamed for their behaviors because they too, were innocent victims who never received help for their own personal trauma.

At the time that severe trauma was thrust upon our Native peoples the group therapy capabilities of each tribal group was being destroyed as well – and there was nothing to replace these capabilities when they were most needed. This destruction of the healing process only exacerbated an already very wounded psyche by increasing the sense of alienation in a spiritual context.

All of this trauma was external to our Native peoples and we cannot “own” the behavior of those who brought this trauma to us. What we can do is heal ourselves and put the blame where it belongs – on the perpetuators. After all, it is common sense to know that a rape victim cannot be blamed for being raped and our people for many generations have been raped physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Because of this holocaustic experience we now suffer daily re-victimized, lack of self-esteem, the highest levels of substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies. We also indulge in many other forms of self-destructive behaviors, including high levels of suicides.

We can successfully treat acute PTSD if therapy begins soon after the onset of the trauma. It is more difficult however, the longer it has been since the onset of trauma.

Much more work is needed to serve the “victim mentality” from the individual’s identity. Secondary PTSD in its primary reactive form is treated much in the same way as acute PTSD. The inter-generational form, however, is much more of a problem for treatment since you are dealing with learned behavior, and although easy to acknowledge, behavior is learned over much of childhood, adolescence and young adulthood – this will take time to learn and relearn new ways of coping and being in the world.

It is suggested that for both individual and group work, a self-empowering form of therapy be used that is culturally reinforcing. The task is a difficult one that we are also in the process of healing our ancestors as we try to heal ourselves.

As we approach the future there remains a great need in addressing the idea of Inter-generational PTSD. The hope is that empirical and theoretical work in this area is encouraged, since presently we have more questions than we have answers – especially in the treatment area.

Western civilization has always assumed that radical change can be brought about by changing the environment. That is why emphasis has always been placed on change in structure. This approach has failed to produce proper results. It has ignored the need to bring about change within men and women themselves and has concentrated on change in the outside world. What is needed, however, is a total change – within American Indian people them-selves, as well as their social environment. The starting point must be the hearts and souls of American Indian men and women, their perception of reality and of their own place and mission in life.

How one Native student is earning free college credits
Thursday, May 05 2016
Written by John Miller,
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michaela_maldonado_naitve_american_student.jpgThe first thing Michaela Maldonado had to do was claim her heritage. That wasn’t so easy. When she was little, she knew that her grandpa on her mom’s side was half Native American – a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Her dad’s side cherished its Latino roots, and Michaela didn’t find out that she had a Cherokee great-grandma on that side until 4th grade. “My dad’s family, they were old fashioned,” she says. “Back in their day Native people were looked down on and they kept that belief.”

When her school closed and she moved to an American Indian magnet school, Michaela began to explore Ojibwe traditions and language. She loved it. But she was also confused. It seemed like kids identified as one thing or another – white, black, Latino, Asian, or Indian. But she looked white and had a Latino name, so how could she be Native American?

In 7th grade Michaela took a school trip to Fon du Lac, as part of her program’s Native American Quiz Bowl team. It distressed her that some of the kids didn’t think she’d embraced her culture – she was too new. That’s when she went to talk to her grandpa.

He told her it didn’t mater what they thought. What mattered was what she did. It was up to her to own Native American identity, and that happened by following the traditions. “Don’t let other people’s stereotypes get in the way,” he said, “just prove them wrong.” She’s been doing that ever since.

One stereotype that bothered Michaela was that Native kids don’t do well in school. That just made her determined to try harder, to prove people who thought that way wrong. Now she’s at the top of her class. And she knows who she is, because following the traditions is a big part of her life.

Michaela doesn’t buy the stereotype that Native culture is primitive or savage – even though that’s the impression she got from some of her history books. “American Indian cultures are just as complicated as any other cultures – including western cultures,” she says. And the Native way of looking at the world can give a lot to mainstream culture.

For example, Michaela’s textbooks said that Native peoples under-utilized the land. She knows that’s wrong. They’ve always managed the earth’s resources, but in a respectful way, giving thanks and never taking too much. If western culture were like that, we wouldn’t be facing pollution, environmental destruction, and climate change.

In high school, one of Michaela’s friends told her about Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO). She was astonished to learn that she could get college credits for free, while also earning high school credits in the same course. Some of the classes she took through PSEO also opened her eyes. College history courses were different. They told the American Indian story more fully, and from the Native point of view.

PSEO is just one kind of dual enrollment option provided by the State of Minnesota. AP (Advanced Placement) and IB (International Baccalaureate Program) are perhaps more well-known. But, in AP and IB, earning college credits comes down to scoring well on one test, on one day. In contrast, PSEO courses count all the assignments and tests throughout the course in the final grade. And most PSEO credits are highly transferable.

All Minnesota public colleges and universities (and many private ones) accept PSEO students – for free. And colleges can accept or decline AP and IB credits, it's not a done deal. That's also true of the two state-provided programs – PSEO, and Concurrent Enrollment or College in the Schools (CE/CIS) – but they’re more likely to be accepted by MN public colleges and universities (and even private colleges), as they’re earned through those institutions in the first place. Many PSEO credits will automatically transfer to all MnSCU colleges.

Students can also take PSEO courses online, without attending a college campus. Another type of (free) dual enrollment option is CE/CIS – which enables students to take college courses taught by high school teachers at the high school.
Students wishing to take CE/CIS courses need to go though their high schools. Students wishing to take PSEO should contact the college or university of their choice. In either case, a high school counselor can help with the process. Students may be eligible for CE/CIS as early as Grade 9; for PSEO as early as Grade 10.

For Michaela, the combination of American Indian Studies and PSEO helped her along her chosen career-path – while still in high school. After graduation, she plans to enter St. Paul College’s “Power of You” program, where she can earn more credits for free. Eventually she wants to earn her nursing degree from the University of Minnesota.

Michaela desire to be a nurse goes back to her Native values of respecting the elders, and to her experiences volunteering with Indian elders in nursing homes. As a nurse, she says she will be able to keep giving back, honoring the elders, and doing what her grandpa told her – owning her American Indian identity.

The Center for School Change website has a state map with PSEO opportunities near where you live. See the website at:

Or see: pseo/pseo_faq.html

Tribal school in northern MN gets funds to rebuild
Thursday, May 05 2016
Written by John Enger/MPRNews,
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native_american_school_gets_federal_funding.jpgThe federal Bureau of Indian Education announced funding  to rebuild the crumbling campus of Leech Lake’s Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig tribal school.

For years now, Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig high school students have been taught in a decades-old pole barn known as “Killer Hall” for its flimsy construction. When a storm rolls in those students sprint across a parking lot and take shelter in the middle school, because the high school might collapse under high winds.
Now the Bureau of Indian Education has allocated $11.9 million to replace the old pole barn, according to the office of Indian Affairs Assistant Secretary Lawrence Roberts.

“We’re ecstatic about the money,” said Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig Superintendent Mary Trapp. “We’ve been waiting a long time for funding.”

Minnesota U.S. Sen. Al Franken said he’s been lobbying to build a proper high school building at Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig for six years. For a long time, he said it seemed impossible to get traction.

“We dramatically underfund everything in Indian Country,” he said. “It’s deplorable.”

It’s been nearly two years since U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell toured the dilapidated school, saying at the time that she’d lobby Congress to fund a new $25 million high school building.

A year after that, U.S. Reps. John Kline and Rick Nolan toured the school again. At the time, Kline said the Bureau of Indian Education was tangled in bureaucracy and failing to take care of tribal schools.

“Washington must fulfill its promise to Native American students across the country,” Kline said in a statement. “I have long argued the Bug School is in need of dire replacement to address safety and educational needs of its students.”
While she’s happy that the bureaucracy seems to be untangling a bit, Trapp isn’t sure $11.9 million will be enough. The school is planning to build an addition onto the middle school to house high school classes.

“I have the plans on my desk,” she said. “A few things will have to be redesigned if we’re going to do this for $12 million.”
The Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig replacement funds are part of a larger push to rebuild Bureau of Indian Education funded tribal schools across the country. Of the 183 run schools, 78 are in such poor condition, government inspectors recommend they be torn down and replaced.

A list of 10 schools in the worst repair was also released in April. Those schools are in line for replacement funding, though just how much funding is not yet clear.

Franken said Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig didn’t make the list of priority schools, but Minnesota lawmakers were able to find other funding.

While the 10 priority schools will still have to wait for money to be allocated and doled out, Franken said, Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig will be able to start work within the year.

Minnesota  Public Radio News can be heard on MPR’s statewide radio network or online at .

May What's New in the Community
Thursday, May 05 2016
Written by The Circle,
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Emily Johnson wins Guggenheim Fellowship

emily_johnson_native_american_artist.jpgTwin Cities resident Emily Johnson (Yup’ik) has won the prestigious Guggenheim fellowship, the New York-based foundation has announced. Out of approximately 4,000 applicants, Johnson is one of the 200 creative artists, natural scientists and humanities scholars to win a Fellowship.

Guggenheim winners get varying amount of funding, which helps to support their work over a period of six months to a year.

Johnson, who has performed at Walker Art Center and Northrop, among other venues, is one of several Twin Cities-connected winners. Guggenheim Fellowships are only open to advanced professionals in mid-career.

The Foundation receives between 3,500 and 4,000 applications every year.


Priscilla Day wins 2016 President’s Award/Outstanding Service

presilla_day_wins_award_native_american.jpgPriscilla Day (Leech Lake Ojibwe), professor and head of the Department of Social Work at the University of Minnesota Duluth, is a recipient of the 2016 President’s Award for Outstanding Service.

The award is presented each spring and recognizes exceptional service to the University of Minnesota, its schools, colleges, departments, and service units by an active or retired faculty or staff member.

UM President Eric W. Kaler praised Day for her accomplishments, “Your excellence is a model for your colleagues and co-workers to emulate. True to the mission of this great land-grant institution, you have done more than your share to make the University of Minnesota one of the preeminent institutions in the nation.”

In addition to teaching and serving as department head, Day serves as director for the Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare. She wrote “Bridging our understanding: American Indian family preservation,” for the Minnesota Department of Human Service and provides training on the subject. Her areas of research are American Indian family preservation and culturally competent practice.

Two events that honor recipients of the Outstanding Service award will be held in Minneapolis. The first is at a University of Minnesota Board of Regents meeting on May 13, and the second is at a reception on June 16. The University of Minnesota President’s Award for Outstanding Service was established in 1997 to recognize faculty and staff (current or retired) who have provided exceptional service to the University, its schools, colleges, departments and service units. Such service must have gone well beyond the regular duties of a faculty or staff member, and demonstrate unusual commitment to the University community.

Migizi Communications receives $702,000 grant

Migizi Communications has received at three-year grant totaling $702,000 ($234,000 annually) to support the Green Jobs Pathway that will involve 60 disconnected Indian youth per year to receive education, training, supports, and experiences needed to prepare them to become financially independent, self-determining adults.

The project will utilize the Back On Track model developed by Jobs for the Future to create a career pathway for American Indian youth to discover their cultural role as caretakers of the Earth, develop strong workplace skills, learn through their experience, and complete postsecondary coursework and credentials of value to secure living wage jobs as they build a career in the Green Economy. Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The projects include:

• A 10-week Green Stewardship Institute focused on educating and engaging youth in hands-on learning and community service that promotes clean energy, energy conservation technologies, and environmental sustainability.
• Paid internships in high-demand green jobs in the private and public sectors
• Individual Development Accounts for youth savings for college
• Enrollment in dual coursework for college credits
• Enrollment and completion of postsecondary certificate, degree, or union apprenticeship in the green energy field.

The funding was made possible through a 3-year $3 million Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grant to Youthprise for Opportunity Reboot. SIF is an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) that is focused on improving the lives of people in low-income communities throughout the United States. Six organizations from across Minnesota were selected to receive 3-year grants ranging from $193,000 to $234,000 annually.

Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures buys Big Sandy Lake Lodge

Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures (MLCV) has purchased Big Sandy Lodge & Resort, in McGregor, Minn. The sale includes the resort’s 18 lodge rooms, seven cabins, fourteen townhomes and a seasonal retreat log home, as well as The Pines Restaurant, The Bear’s Den Sports Bar & Grille, indoor pool, hot tub and sauna.

According to Joe Nayquonabe, Jr., CEO of Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures, the McGregor area has been a market that has been on MLCV’s radar since beginning its diversification efforts in 2013. “Our roadmap calls for a mix of hospitality growth in targeted markets as well as acquisitions that allow us to expand the local business economy within all three districts of the Mille Lacs Band reservation,” Nayquonabe said. “Big Sandy Lodge has a reputation as one of Minnesota’s premier resort destinations. We look forward to expanding upon the resort’s rich traditions by leveraging our experience in hospitality.”

Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe said that Big Sandy Lake is so important to the regional economy, but it is more than that for the Band. “We have a long history with Big Sandy Lake, and it is actually a very sacred place for Anishinabe people, so this acquisition was a perfect match for more than just business reasons. We are delighted to join the families of resort owners on Big Sandy Lake and honored to host the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener this year with Gov. Mark Dayton.”

MLCV made the decision to acquire Big Sandy Lake Lodge & Resort based on its strong performance and its unique position as a premiere up-north destination resort on the Big Sandy watershed. No immediate changes are planned, but MLCV will monitor business operations and look for opportunities to improve efficiency and profitability over time.

Comedian Ralphie May Blames “Ignorance” on US Education
Thursday, May 05 2016
Written by Jon Lurie,
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ralphie_may_racist_comments.jpg“Humor,” said the Greek writer Taki, “is a reminder that no matter how high the throne one sits on, one sits on one’s bottom.” Comedian Ralphie May, the star of multiple Comedy Central and Netflix specials, was living proof of this last month.  A firestorm erupted across Indian Country in response to a 44-second audio clip of a May performance that surfaced April 5 on YouTube. A joke contained in the outtake came off as a rant against Native Americans, as it relied upon a litany of profanity-laced stereotypes for its set-up.

May describes Native Americans as “a bunch of unemployed alcoholics in need of haircuts” who have “never made it to the Bronze Age,” which is why white settlers took their land with “smallpox blankets and a bag of beads.”

May’s career has been riding high since he won runner-up in 2003 on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. But the response to the YouTube clip, which American Indian Movement (AIM) co-founder Clyde Bellecourt called “The most racist thing I’ve ever heard,” forced May to reflect on some of the material which gave rise to his success.

The comedian started posting defiantly on Twitter shortly after the clip began circulating. One of May’s tweets read: “Afraid, I will not be. Shamed, I will not be. Apologize, I will not. I am a man that stands on his own.” Another read: “I make jokes about whites, blacks, Asians, Latinos, Jews, Arabs, gays. None are PC but at the end of it they all show how hatred is stupid.”

May – a white American whose comedy stabs at just about everyone, himself included – said the clip had been edited and stripped of context that would have clarified his intent. In an interview with Indian Country Today last month, the comedian claimed to have Cherokee ancestry.

Meant to quell the controversy, May’s comments only drew more attention to it. One day after the clip was released on YouTube, it had been viewed more than 10,000 times, and the fallout was just beginning.

Public criticism of May focused on the Sanford Center in Bemidji where the 44-year old from Chattanooga, Tenn. was schedule to perform April 9. The event center addressed the matter on Facebook – first by saying they do not necessarily condone the views of their performers, and later by apologizing for booking May to perform. The Sanford Center said it would not cancel the show, citing a legal contract with May. One day after it issued its apology, however, Bemidji city manager Nate Mathews directed the Sanford Center to cancel May’s performance and refund tickets to customers “due to concerns about the appropriateness of what the comedy material could contain.”

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