History Through a Native Lens

Timeline Overview

This timeline of historically traumatic events was authored by Karina L. Walters, Ph.D. (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), Indigenous Wellness Research Institute, University of Washington, with assistance from Danica Brown, Ph.D. (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma).

Historically traumatic events are events designed to eradicate a people (genocide) and/or their culture, language, and life ways (ethnocide) and/or their world views, teachings, and epistemologies (epistemicide). Historically traumatic events should not be confused with other events that are traumatic, such as natural disasters. These, too, produce significant trauma and upheaval, but historically traumatic events specifically target a group — by nationality, religion, or other oppressed status — with the intent to eradicate or, in some cases, subjugate and assimilate the group into the dominant class. Historically traumatic events include massacres, forced relocation and removal from traditional homelands, forced removal and separation of children from parents, and medical experimentation, among others. They are never singular events but consist of a series of targeted traumatic events over generations. They are experienced as collective traumas and, in many cases, the psychological, physical, and spiritual aftermath can be carried into subsequent generations — whether these events are known or conscious among subsequent generations. Recent epigenetic research is beginning to provide preliminary evidence of intergenerational transmission of stress from traumatic events in preceding generations.

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