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Levina Wilkins

Lesson 2 – Orphan of History

Domestic Violence Lesson #2:  Orphan of History

Goal: This lesson assists the young and older adult in understanding historical trauma and how learned patterns of behavior that Native American/Indian people have accepted results in domestic violence.

Activity: Utilizing video #2, we will watch and listen to Grandmother Levina Wilkins’ story and review history and historical trauma to develop the understanding of the pain that requires healing.  This lesson is one of brutal honesty in looking at the past. Grandmother Wilkins asserts that Domestic Violence is learned; therefore it is important to “undo” some of our past so that we can heal.

Historical trauma

Native Americans/Indians were colonized by an invading culture.  There was a great loss of values, beliefs, and practices.  Significant to Indian people was the loss of traditional foods, introduction of alcohol, and movement to a society where individuality took precedence to living in balance with the natural world.  This historical trauma exists in all Indian people.  Beyond the historical trauma Indian people often experience personal trauma that further isolates and separates them from their culture.

“Historical Trauma is a pattern of disempowerment that is carried out against a people … 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’s connected again to our history as a people, being moved around or being taken from our culture, not doing the songs anymore, not having the traditional foods anymore.”Judy Bluehorse Skelton

Becoming an Orphan

In the Hero’s Journey, the story begins with a person who is an orphan; or someone who feels like an orphan; alone, separate, different, and misunderstood. Grandmother Wilkins tells about history and how history has been recorded and told inaccurately.  She provides a larger historical understanding of how Indian people have been orphaned by the traumas that have occurred to the people and culture.

“When she (my Grandma) would tell me stories, and she would cry because of what happened to them. Her grandmother was raped.  She was raped by the cavalry.”Levina Wilkins

Examine Grandmother Wilkins’ story using the following questions:

1)   What historical trauma did Grandmother Wilkins’ share?

2)   How do you feel when you hear Grandmother Wilkins’ story?

3)   How have Indian people been “orphaned” by historical trauma?

4)   Can you identify for yourself historical trauma that may be influencing your life?

5)   Have you ever felt isolated and alone?

6)   Do you have experiences in your life where you became silent and disconnected?

In the Hero’s journey, the orphan begins to question.  The questioning is often about why something in life happens the way it does.  These questions motivate the orphan on a journey, often one of wandering. Grandmother Wilkins shares of the children losing identity.

Loss of identity

“A lot of our children, I’m finding in the schools; don’t really know their grandparents or their great-grandparents.  That’s another trauma.  We have lost a lot of our identity.” Levina Wilkins

When a person has experiences of loss or injustice, there can be many emotions such as fear, sadness, aloneness, and pain.  These emotions are difficult to experience and often do not surface.  With historical trauma, those emotions are often not understood as they connect deeply into the past.

Anger is a valuable emotion in helping us to identify those feelings and the experiences we or our ancestors have had.  It motivates us to question.  When we don’t question the situation and choose to justify or ignore feelings or experiences, the anger grows.  Silence and disconnection also grows.  It is in silence that anger can become a destructive force.  Review the concept that silence and disconnection supports anger as a destructive force through the following questions.

1)   Do you believe that there is a way to heal from these traumas?

2)   What do you feel when you hear Grandmother Wilkins say,

“You have to feel you need to resolve it.”

3)   How did Grandmother Wilkins cope with her own historical traumas?

Domestic Violence is learned

Domestic Violence was not known to the people of long ago.  Domestic Violence is a learned behavior.  It is just terrible.  I know of a lot of things that have happened.” Levina Wilkins

1)   Could it be that Domestic Violence comes from the isolation and pain of the orphan?