Dr. Theresa Maresca

Lesson 2 – The Wanderer: Seeking Answers

Finding answers about your life situations or health situations can cause us to travel to unfamiliar places or meet people who can help us to discover ways of dealing with various life problems that contribute to an unbalanced life.


Recognizing individual health needs

Unhealthy coping methods and disease

Activity: Watch Theresa Maresca’s interview on Video 1

Answer questions

Group discussion


…some of that orphan piece has to do with western education and not having some of our own history acknowledged through our history classes, our science classes, our arts and music, even just being acknowledged.

It has to do with micro-aggressions and everyday life. People feel tremendously disconnected. It has to do with burying that anger and sadness in medicating that, in medicating that in unhealthy ways with issues of addictions in particular.

Recognizing individual health needs

We all have a history, a purpose, a journey that will take us to and through situations that can create problems and stresses in our lives.  Our history includes great tragedies of family members such as our  grandparents who were removed from their homes and sent far away to be acculturated and suffered traumatic events while at boarding schools and missions, some of them returned home empty losing their spirits, abused and left to deal with unresolved emotional pains, punished for using their language, and forbidden to practice their traditional ceremonies and beliefs, brainwashed into being ashamed of their traditional way of life and spiritual beliefs.  Some became so disconnected they couldn’t show affection, and many more learned violent and abusive behaviors.

This history generated cycles of unhealthy behaviors passed on from generation to current generations and affecting the health of our families and communities today along with other issues associated with the current economic and environmental effects of industrialization and government policies.

Dr. Maresca relates disconnectedness with micro-aggressions and everyday life, burying anger and sadness, by using alcohol and drugs to medicate their feelings instead of finding healthy ways to deal with traumatic memories, emotional pains and to escape from unhealthy environments of abuse, depression, and feelings of inadequacies.  Medicating with alcohol and drugs can lead to addictive behaviors, mental disorders, disconnection from family responsibilities, and development of chronic diseases among other social issues.

Affects of unhealthy coping methods

American Indian populations have been using alcohol to cope with their problems and for many it becomes a lifestyle passed on to their children along with unhealthy behaviors.  Prolonged use can eventually create chronic health disease such as:

  • Liver disease; Cirrhosis and Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Pancreatic disease; Acute and Chronic pancreatitis
  • Cardiovascular disease; Hypertension, Stroke, and Cardiomyopathy
  • Cancer; Neoplasm of liver, pancreas, and esophagus

Alcohol can damage organs like the pancreas; the pancreas produces enzymes which help in the digestion of foods such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.  The pancreas produces hormones like insulin which is important to maintain normal levels of sugar in the blood.  Insulin attaches to cell receptors to allow the glucose to enter a cell where it can be used for energy, therefore removing the glucose from the blood.  Insulin resistance leads to Type 2 diabetes and is often diagnosed when a person is either hospitalized, is forced into treatment, or finds a path to sobriety.

Dr. Maresca talks of a point in life where someone finally asks themselves, “what is the root cause of my illness, where can I find answers about my health and how can my life be different?”

The wanderer’s journey is to connect with people who can guide them and help them to understand why things are the way they are.  This journey can help them understand that not all of their sadness or anger is from current life situations, but experiences of intergenerational trauma passed on through generations.  We are experiencing centuries of unresolved anguish both physically and spiritually.
Connecting with guides

Not having that, ceremonies relating issues to marriage, getting training to issues of what your responsibilities are as a young man or young woman entering a relationship and parenting. In terms of separation from families, our families don’t live in a home with multiple generations anymore…

Dr. Maresca talked about the loss of ceremonies and their importance to young people preparing to take on the responsibilities as an adult, especially regarding relationships and parenting.  When the elders that were forced into boarding schools weren’t allowed to go home they were denied to participate in their traditional ceremonies which added to this feeling of loss and disconnection for our elders.

Relationships are important to American Indian families and communities because it is believed that all things are related and are a part of each person, so all plants, animals, elements, and people should be respected.  When there is disharmony within a person’s life they would seek out the help of their medicine men/women for healing and guidance.  Today our Native people are sent to a psychologist, psychiatrist and medical doctor to find out what is ailing them and many times are put on pain killers and/or required to attend counseling sessions which usually don’t work out well.  Many are still left with questions about why their life is the way it is.

The following is how Dr. Maresca describes a person who becomes a wanderer and what they can do to connect and begin to heal and find answers about their life.

For the wanderers, it comes from actually opening up to another human being, whether a friend or family member, [telling them] “I don’t feel good” or even the recognition, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired,” somehow, and starting to wonder what it is that is the root cause and starting to be curious about health or how this could be different.

Dr. Theresa Maresca - Mohawk

Some things a person can do to begin their search for that person, place, or thing to help begin healing and harmony is to use sage to cleanse the air within your home and either meditate or pray, listening to Native American Church music, flute music, or any soothing music while working, praying, or doing an activity helps to get you centered but it is always best to find a person you can openly speak with to help with connecting to self, family, community and finding healthy ways to get through the changes in life.


Draw a picture that represents “Harmony.”


What kind of ceremonies does your tribe use? Please share and explain how they can help with connecting; connecting with self, spirit world, family, ancestors, community, etc.

  • Rites of passage
  • Marriage
  • Healing
  • Spirit guide
  • Food

Reflection - Write your feelings, thoughts, and ideas about wandering and connecting.

Do you know the history or the experiences of your parents, grandparents, great grandparents?

Did they get sent to a boarding school or mission?

Do you recognize behaviors passed on from your elders?

Does your family practice traditional ceremonies? Why or Why not?

Why is having a connection with your culture important?