Historical trauma among Indigenous Peoples of the Americas: concepts, research, and clinical considerations

J Psychoactive Drugs. 2011 Oct-Dec;43(4):282-90. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2011.628913.


Indigenous Peoples of the Americas have experienced devastating collective, intergenerational massive group trauma and compounding discrimination, racism, and oppression. There is increasing evidence of emotional responses to collective trauma and losses among Indigenous Peoples, which may help to inform ways of alleviating psychological suffering and unresolved grief. Tribal cultural and regional differences exist which may impact how the wounding across generations and within an individual's lifespan are experienced and addressed. This article will review the conceptual framework of historical trauma, current efforts to measure the impact of historical trauma upon emotional distress, and research as well as clinical innovations aimed at addressing historical trauma among American Indians/Alaska Natives and other Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. We will discuss assessment of historical trauma and implications for research and clinical as well as community interventions, and conclude with recommendations.

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Practice*
  • Grief
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / psychology*
  • Mental Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders* / etiology
  • Mental Disorders* / psychology
  • Mental Health
  • Prejudice
  • Research*