The Cycle of Trauma on Children

July 8, 2018

Vi Waln


While officials in Thailand have brought together emergency personnel from all over the world to conduct a delicate rescue operation to save a dozen teenagers trapped underground, the United States continues to detain children of Indigenous people in cages. America is an expert when it comes to inflicting trauma on entire generations.

There are many Indigenous people who identify with children being forcibly taken from their homes or parents. For instance, Lakota people have been experiencing the removal of their children by state and federal agencies for decades. Our ancestors experienced the forced removal of their children to the government boarding school system. Thus, many of us can empathize with the parents who enter the United States only to have their children pulled from their arms and placed in recently established American concentration camps.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, concentration camps are defined as an “internment center for political prisoners and members of national or minority groups who are confined for reasons of state security, exploitation, or punishment, usually by executive decree or military order. Persons are placed in such camps often on the basis of identification with a particular ethnic or political group rather than as individuals and without benefit either of indictment or fair trial. Concentration camps are to be distinguished from prisons interning persons lawfully convicted of civil crimes and from prisoner-of-war camps in which captured military personnel are held under the laws of war. They are also to be distinguished from refugee camps or detention and relocation centers for the temporary accommodation of large numbers of displaced persons.”

Unfortunately, the world is witnessing another wave of human rights violations being committed by the American president and his staff. For example, there are many online news reports detailing the bureaucratic obstacles which must be overcome in order to return hundreds of small children safely to their parents. One report I read told about how uncomfortable an Arizona Judge was when a one-year old baby, accompanied by a court-appointed attorney, made their first appearance in his courtroom. reported on July 6, 2018 that “During a conference call with reporters and U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw on Friday afternoon, government officials acknowledged that as many as 20 percent of the youngest children ripped from their parents on Donald Trump’s orders won’t be reunified with their families any time soon.”

The children in America’s concentration camps have been traumatized beyond our comprehension. Their trauma will eventually become historical. Their descendants will suffer devasting effects from this experience. Their historical trauma will likely mirror what other Indigenous people suffer. They will be told to just get over it. Healing will take many generations.

Lower Cut Meat School Group
Lakota children from the Rosebud Reservation at the Lower Cut Meat Day School. A police presence is common when children are forcibly removed from parents. Photo Courtesy of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science Catalog Number BR61-282.

We must realize the people whom are fleeing situations in Mexico or Central America are going through the exact experience our ancestors did. Many of the people seeking to cross the border are Indigenous people. They also likely identify with a nation of people who’ve always lived in a specific area.

We must remember that Turtle Island is one land base, running from Alaska clear down to the Panama Canal. The Indigenous people of Turtle Island have lived here since time immemorial. Before the encroachment we traveled all of Turtle Island, trading with other Indigenous nations in many areas

There are countless Lakota and other Indigenous peoples now praying in summer ceremonies. Generations of strong prayers are allowing several tribes to reinter on their homelands the remains of Indigenous children long buried in a Carlisle cemetery. We have to continue making ceremony and strong prayers for all the children of the world to be reunited with their families. The cycle of trauma we’ve all become accustomed to has to stop with us.



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Published by Vi Waln


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