In research and in practice, I am interested in the role of historical trauma in the contemporary health status of Urban American Indians. Defined by Lakota scholar Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, the term historical trauma describes, “the cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan, across generations, emanating from massive group trauma.” Viewed as a syndemic condition combined with ubiquitous poverty and inequity, how does historical trauma contribute to the burden of disease in our community? Further, how do we identity and remediate these post-colonial impacts?
In this talk, I’ll discuss my conceptualization of how historical trauma is exacerbated by the daily microaggressions facing American Indian people and how this experience is enacted in health demoting behavioral practices, amplifying risk, and ultimately contributing to lowered health and social outcomes. I will then discuss the ways in which decolonization theory is applied in an Urban Indian Health Program to address the specific health needs of the community in a manner that reflects the cultural priorities of indigenous people.
Kerry Hawk Lessard (Shawnee) is the Executive Director of Native American Lifelines, an Urban Indian Health Program serving Native people living in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. An applied medical anthropologist, Lessard partners with American Indian community members to co-create health programming and deliver services that best meet their needs. Kerry has been an active participant in the Upward Anthropology Research Community, urging reconciliation between the discipline of Anthropology and its problematic relationship with American Indians and Alaska Natives. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park and former student of Drs. Aubrey Williams and Judith Freidenberg.
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