In a recent DM, I referred to the work of Donna Schindler and her book, Flying Horse: Stories of Healing the Soul Wound. Since then she has gifted me with a recent talk she shared with a group of Navajo people about what she has learned over the years from Indigenous healers and her own decades of living among indigenous peoples. She has given me permission to share that talk with you, HERE.
I took notes on listening to it and will share some of the principal themes in this DM. This discussion and our recent DM’s grew from the news that Pope Francis apologized to the first peoples of Canada for the abuses in church sponsored boarding schools and is planning a trip to Canada to do so in person on the land itself.
Donna asks the question: Who would steal kids from parents with guns in hand to take them to boarding schools? The historical trauma of the Navajo actually began with the Long Walk—a 9000-mile trek in 1862 over four years when one half of the people died along the way.
One mechanism the brain has to protect from trauma is to shut down one’s memory and feelings and avoid talking about “the bad stuff.” Yet the bad things from the past still affect people.
A Native American psychologist who became Donna’s teacher called this “the soul wound.” Children suffer deeply because raising little children is very hard in these circumstance when one is not feeling one’s feelings.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder follows individuals and tribes with symptoms like nightmares, anxiety, diabetes, anger, lack of sleep or inability to eat. “Intergenerational grief” happens.
Lateral oppression is another product of historical trauma. If you’ve been treated very badly, often you hurt others. A kind of identification with the oppressor can occur where you too become a bully, a way of moving from being weak to being strong and powerful.
Other symptoms can include sexual abuse and incest and people doing things unconsciously.
What can one do about it? First is to sit with it and “let it percolate.” Once you become aware, a path might open up. Second is to talk about issues, “what happened to me,” etc. From this individual and family and community healing can occur. Writing poetry and sharing it is important. “Poetry saved many young people.” By telling your story you come to realize that you are not alone.
See D. Schindler, MD, Flying Horse: Stories of Healing the Soul Wound.
Donna Schindler speaks on her work in historical trauma HERE.
Also see Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: “Indigenous Surge.” Indigenous dancers led the way for 10,000 marchers protesting the graves of children found at Canadian residential schools. Toronto, 6/6/2021. Photo by Michael Swan on Flickr.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you find insight in these teachings about historical trauma and soul wounds? What comes next?
Recommended ReadingFlying Horse: Stories of Healing the Soul Wound
By Donna Schindler, MD; Foreword by Matthew Fox
A white psychiatrist shares the truths she has learned about historical trauma in this book which has been called ‘prophetic’ by Reverend Matthew Fox. Starting with her childhood in South Texas and Bermuda, she takes us on a journey during which she had to confront her own racial biases and denial of the truth in order to work as a cross-cultural psychiatrist with a Maori mental health team in New Zealand, the Navajo Nation and California Native Americans.
Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth
Fox’s spirituality weds the healing and liberation found in North American Creation Spirituality and in South American Liberation Theology. Creation Spirituality challenges readers of every religious and political persuasion to unite in a new vision through which we learn to honor the earth and the people who inhabit it as the gift of a good and just Creator.
“A watershed theological work that offers a common ground for religious seekers and activists of all stripes.” — Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.