Recognizing Dignity: A Model for Healing Historical Trauma and Building Peace?

Carol A. Hand

As I was trying to catch up with reading the many posts I have missed during the past two weeks, I discovered an exciting answer to questions I have been pondering for a very long time. How do we heal inter-generational trauma and animosity to create peace? What would happen if each school, church, neighborhood and community could come together to dialogue as Dr. Donna Hicks suggests in the following video?

Declare Dignity:

I would like to acknowledge and thank Rolando Thompkins for sharing this video on his blog, Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian.

(Please visit Rolando’s blog to share your likes and comments. Miigwetch.)

2 thoughts on “Recognizing Dignity: A Model for Healing Historical Trauma and Building Peace?

  1. Yours is an interesting thought, Carol. I’m unconvinced that we have significant trauma and animosity across generations. Drama we certainly have. I’m of a mind that believes we can create some of the healing and reweaving that would benefit many if we simply looked and worked inter-generationally — for starters.


  2. I respect your perspective, Eric, although it’s not one I share because of my own experiences and observations of the very real consequences of historical trauma for the survivors of holocaust and ethnic cleansing. My work with Native Americans and tribal communities during my career led me to try to understand the causes of the suffering I witnessed. Two of my past posts describe my observations and conclusions: , and

    I see the same tragedy repeated in many places around the world, due often to the legacy of colonialism. I even see it in the stories of the Hatfields and McCoys – two marginalized groups that fought with each other because it had always been that way. Yet I also see the heroic efforts of people to find the humanity in those who are defined as the enemy from generation to generation. One notable post that I just read this morning demonstrates this type of heroic effort:

    Based on my experience, I believe it is crucial for those who bear the legacy of generations of oppression to become aware of the historical antecedents of their current circumstances. It is only then that they can begin the healing process. And strange though it may sound, I also believe that it is often the responsibility of those who are the descendants of the victims to take the lead in the healing process by acknowledging the dignity of the descendants of those who have been their oppressors.

    When I lived in an Ojibwe reservation in northern Wisconsin (Lac du Flambeau), I was struck by the fear and animosity in the surrounding White community. I was sometimes the target of discrimination from people who nothing about me, people with far less education who had never had many of the opportunities I had had to travel and expand horizons. Like the lower-class White overseers hired as a buffer between slaves and plantation owners, the inter-generational conflict between tribal members and border town residents only served to keep people in a similar marginalized position and kept them from working together to improve both communities. From my perspective, without awareness and concerted efforts to help people see each other as worthy of respect and compassion, the conflict will be never-ending.

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