250602 “My Heart Has Been Strengthened By Having To Go Take This Journey”: Embodiment of Historical Trauma and Microaggression Distress among American Indians and Alaska Natives

Monday, October 31, 2011: 2:55 PM

Karina L. Walters, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
American Indian community discourse suggests that historical trauma as well as contemporary microaggression distress can potentially become embodied in health outcomes and health risk behaviors and that these factors may play a significant role in present-day health inequities. Historical trauma, which consists of traumatic events targeting a community that cause catastrophic upheaval, and microaggressive events, which consist of environmental and interpersonal denigrating and discriminatory message, have been posited by Native communities to have pernicious intergenerational effects through a myriad of mechanisms from biological to behavioral. Consistent with contemporary societal determinants of health approaches, the impact of historical trauma and microaggression distress calls upon researchers to explicitly examine theoretically and empirically how these processes become embodied and identify how these factors affect the magnitude and distribution of health inequities. This presentation describes how historical trauma and microaggression discrimination distress impact indigenous embodiment of health based on the findings from the national 6-site HONOR project study (N=447). Preliminary results indicate that historical trauma over generations may impact mental health in the current generation; and, that different types of historically traumatic events may produce different mental health symptom expression (e.g., depression vs. PTSD). Finally, findings also suggest that historical trauma loss and discrimination distress may be risk factors for embodiment of physical pain and health risk behaviors. Moreover, positive Native identity attitudes played an integral role in buffering the impact of discrimination on health risk behaviors and outcomes. Decolonizing public health practice implications for American Indian and Alaska Native communities will be highlighted.

Learning Areas:
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Examine health effects of historical trauma on American Indian and Alaskan Native populations

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a researcher on issues related to discrimination among indigenous groups.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.