Historical Trauma Found In 'tracks' And 'bad Indians.' Native American Literature Essay

2062 words - 9 pages

Laramie Lawrence 
Honors: 300 
Dr. Czarnecki
I believe it can safely be said that in the United States’ history, Native Americans have not been treated fairly. The constant grief and pain they experienced and the atrocities they have been subjected to is evidence of that. Subsequently, after decades of mistreatment and outright cruelty, the psyches of Native Americans have changed as time went on to reflect the trauma their ancestors experienced. Today, this psychological phenomenon is labeled appropriately as ‘Historical Trauma,’ and it could be one of many reasons behind the anger that seems to circulate through the very blood of native people- an emotion that is just one among many effects of historical trauma.
In order to more accurately display the concept, two books that display evidence of historical trauma within their characters and stories are Tracks by Louise Erdrich and Bad Indians by Deborah A. Miranda. This novel and this memoir are great works of literature upon which an individual can garner a better understanding of how historical trauma affects Native Americans- both fictional and nonfictional.
Tracks deals with the devastation of the Anishinabe (also known as Chippewa or Objiway) people between the winter of 1912 and the spring of 1924 in Matchimanito, North Dakota. The novel focuses on the life of Fleur Pillager and those with whom she comes into contact with, dramatizing their struggle for survival as well as their multifaceted conflicts. In alternating chapters, the story is narrated by Nanapush, a tribal elder, and Pauline Puyat, a fanatic nun of mixed heritage. The two narrators complement each other but at times also contradict and undermine each other. This alternation of narrators is an excellent way to gain a broader view of the feelings and thoughts of some of the members of a dying community with a quickly dying culture.
The memoir Bad Indians is part tribal history of the California Mission Indians as well as a memoir of the author's family's experiences. It combines oral histories, newspaper clippings, anthropological recordings, poems, and personal reflections to tell the stories of Miranda's family along with the experiences of California Indians during the Spanish missions and into the present. The personal reflections in this memoir are particularly telling in and of themselves as to how historical trauma plays a role in the daily life of native people.
Put simply, Historical Trauma is a theory that purports that some Native Americans are experiencing historical loss symptoms such as depression, substance dependence, diabetes, dysfunctional parenting and unemployment as a result of the cross-generational transmission of trauma from historical losses like the loss of population, land, and culture. According to Kathleen Brown-Rice in her article “Examining the Theory of Historical Trauma Among Native Americans”:
The current problems facing the Native American people may be the result of “a legacy of...

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