The American Indian Holocaust: healing historical unresolved grief

Am Indian Alsk Nativ Ment Health Res (1987). 1998;8(2):56-78.


American Indians experienced massive losses of lives, land, and culture from European contact and colonization resulting in a long legacy of chronic trauma and unresolved grief across generations. This phenomenon, labeled historical unresolved grief, contributes to the current social pathology of high rates of suicide, homicide, domestic violence, child abuse, alcoholism and other social problems among American Indians. The present paper describes the concept of historical unresolved grief and historical trauma among American Indians, outlining the historical as well as present social and political forces which exacerbate it. The abundant literature on Jewish Holocaust survivors and their children is used to delineate the intergenerational transmission of trauma, grief, and the survivor's child complex. Interventions based on traditional American Indian ceremonies and modern western treatment modalities for grieving and healing of those losses are described.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation
  • Alcoholism / ethnology
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Education / history
  • Grief*
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Holocaust / history
  • Holocaust / psychology*
  • Indians, North American / history
  • Indians, North American / psychology*
  • Social Values
  • United States