Judy Bluehorse Skelton

Lesson 1 – The Orphan: Disconnection

Goal: Understand disconnection

Activity: Read and review the Diabetes information

Listen to Judy Bluehorse Skelton interview on Video 1

Answer questions

Group discussion

“Every society needs educated people, but the primary responsibility of educated people is to bring wisdom back into the community and make it available to others, so that the lives they are leading make sense.”  Vine Deloria Jr.

Disconnection; we experience disconnection when we become physically separated, apart, or removed from a group/family/community/land; we experience feelings of disconnection when we feel alone, unloved, isolated, lost from self.

Situations that create and cause disconnection:

· Family members are partying all night, sometimes arguments and fights happen.

– I’m fatigued and tired, don’t want to talk or be around anyone.

· Someone makes me feel scared for my personal safety.

– I’m afraid to tell my parents that their friends make me feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

· Feelings of low self esteem.

– I’m too shy to meet other kids because I’m not pretty or smart

· Being sexually abused.

– I feel dirty and ashamed, I can’t tell anyone because my life is being threatened.

· Being physically abused

– I can’t participate in P.E. or sports because my body is I have bruises or scars.

All of these situations create high anxiety and stress causing us to respond in unhealthy ways.  Some responses:

· Withdrawal; become distant from everyone, not talking to anyone about what is happening to you.

· Eating; consuming comfort foods high in carbohydrates.

· Alcohol or drug use; self medicating as a way to avoid feeling emotional or physical pain.

What is stress?

Stress is a feeling or the physical response to different types of demands.  There are both good and bad experiences.  Some sources of stress:

Fight or Flight- Acute stress (short period response) this is the survival stress that is common when we respond to danger.  It occurs when we feel afraid that someone is going to physically

hurt us.  Several of our body systems rapidly change to meet the perceived danger; the heart and blood vessels, immune system, lungs, digestive system, senses, and brain.


Internal Stress- This occurs when we worry about things we have no control over or for no reason at all.  Sometimes we put ourselves in situations that will cause stress.  Sometimes we can become addicted to this tense and fast paced lifestyle.


Environmental Stress- We can be stressed by things around us like noise, crowds, pressures from family or work.


Fatigue- This kind of stress is caused by working too much at your job, school, or home.  It happens when we haven’t learned how to manage our time or tell people “No.”  We allow others or situations to dictate our time and we never take time to rest and relax from all the commitments.

Here’s what happens when we are stressed?

· Hormones are released throughout the body (adrenaline and cortisol)

· Blood pressure is elevated

· Senses are increased

· Glucose is released to the brain and our muscles

· Body organs, metabolic processes and emotions are inflamed

When we experience too much stress our immune system becomes depleted and we experience high blood pressure.  These responses can cause other health problems, like always getting sick or heart problems, if left untreated.

Some of the science, whether it’s subatomic particle science or quantum physics, actually gets pretty close to what I would say the elders have talked about, in recognizing there’s more to us than the five sense of smell, taste, vision and touch but also this other sense of something...I can only think, maybe belonging, connection, relationship.  And when that’s severed, and not only severed, but when it’s violently pulled away, it leaves a hole.

Judy Bluehorse Skelton


The ancestors who were forced to relocate from their home states, of the south to what is referred to Indian Territory, Oklahoma, walked for 1200 miles through severe weather conditions suffering illness, hypothermia, malnutrition, exhaustion, and for hundreds of thousands - death.

The 1830 Relocation Act that began the “Trail of Tears” for many tribes was a traumatic event that the ancestors had no control over.  Forced to walk during the winter season when the plant world is in its resting and rebuilding cycle left little or no medicinal or food resources to heal and nourish their bodies.  Animal food sources moved to their winter homes and weren’t available as foods and the men were too exhausted or sick to hunt. Thousands of Native people

died from starvation and illness.  Families were left to carry their unresolved grief of losing family because they were unable to provide proper burial and healing ceremonies.

Historical trauma is a part of our Native history and a heritage passed on and given through the stories of our ancestors.  We can imagine in our minds and feel in our hearts the physical, emotional, and mental pain they suffered and endured. What we sometime fail to see is their

Strength, courage, and wisdom which can help us overcome our own “Trial of Tears.”

“Historical trauma’s role, it plays in our health; physical health, mental health, and spiritual health, as people look back they are finding that historical trauma has been forgotten, or covered up, or perhaps people thought it no longer affects me…”


Judy Bluehorse Skelton

It’s important to understand that when we live with stress, or don’t share our feelings our spirits are also affected and this creates even greater imbalance in our lives.  Many people don’t know how to deal with their problems and so they react in harmful ways because they haven’t been taught how to deal with their problems.  Some behaviors are passed on from generation to generation both good and bad.

Taking the time to figure out what you need to do means sorting out what is going on inside and cleaning out some of the things that are making your mind, body, and spirit ill, also taking the time to look back into our history.

“Historical trauma is often harder to identify in our behavior, or sense of sadness, or even depression, because it may not be immediately visible in our day to day, but whenever we look back

We may realize that, oh!  We have, what some may call genetic memory… this doesn’t feel good and we find out in talking to parents, to aunty, or to grandparents, or in looking at our own history, and sometimes when others present the history of the people or our people, whether it’s the Cherokee Trail of Tears or all the tribes have a Trail of Tears. Boarding School experience , being taken away from parents, or being beaten regularly because that’s what the school or the religious experience for some might have entailed.”


We look back to a loss of a relationship with the natural world, a loss of a sense of place, of where we belong, and we realize that, that’s connected to a history of a people being moved around or being taken from our culture, not doing our songs, and not having the traditional foods…but also the genocide, the violence committed against men, women and children and this history, It lives on in us..”

Judy Bluehorse Skelton



Activity - Write responses on a sheet of paper.

Note: Only write down what you are comfortable sharing within a group.

· Write a description of what historical trauma is/or means to you.


· What kind of disconnections does Judy present in the interview?

· How might these disconnections have affected your family, grand-parents, parents, and you?

· Are there things happening in your life today that create a sense of disconnection?

· Do you sometimes feel like you have no control over your life?  Why?

· Are there other situations that can make someone disconnect and feel like an orphan?

· What do you think you can do to resolve some of the changes and problems you are experiencing?


Reflecting; Reflecting is taking the time to process or evaluate an experience, express personal feelings, and thoughts following that experience.



Journal Exercise

Write your reflections in your journal.