VOICES OF WISDOM
For the last six years I have been working on creating a program that could begin to address the travesties surrounding Native/First Americans and Aboriginal Australians. I really began to understand the atrocities endured by the Aboriginal population in Australia, and consequently in my own country, while pursuing my Masters degree at Macquarie University, north of Sydney.
During school breaks, on-campus housing was made available to Aboriginal students through the Warawara program, and as an international student, I also stayed on campus during holidays. As a fellow outsider, I became friends with members of this program and was allowed into their inner circle to begin a video storytelling project, as part of my degree. While listening to their stories I couldn't help but think of the Cherokee community which is close to my home in Western North Carolina. The historical genocide endured by both of these indigenous groups made me realize that the alcoholism, domestic violence and racism of the present day is for the most part symptomatic of the larger problem of historical trauma.
Historical Trauma is "the collective emotional and psychological injury both over the life span and across generations, resulting from a cataclysmic history of genocide "(Yellow Horse Brave Heart). I want to create an organization called "V.O.W.", or "Voices of Wisdom" that will engage community and the arts as a means to heal historical trauma. Employing digital storytelling and cultural exchange between Aboriginal Australians and Native/First Americans, V.O.W. will focus on women, ancient wisdom and current sustainability. Women are the heart of the family, and their empowerment is a means by which to facilitate reconciliation and truly heal the community in which they live. Women in developing countries and indigenous societies are especially at risk for violence, poverty, and have little or no access to health care. Rhonda Copelan, in her essay, “Understanding Domestic Violence as Torture” asserts that, “Violence against women in the home operates as an alternative system of social control unaccountable to the formal legal system.” This is especially insidious for those in indigenous communities who have historical memory of betrayal by the very legal system that professes assistance in the form of public policy. The wisdom of indigenous elders, in terms of oral tradition and environmental sustainability, must also be shared and protected or it will be lost, to the peril of our entire global community.
Bonnie and Eduard Duran, historical trauma scholars, remind us that, "Once a people have been assaulted in a genocidal fashion, there are psychological ramifications. With the victim's complete loss of power comes despair, and the psyche reacts by internalizing what appears to be genuine power--the power of the oppressor. The internalizing process begins when Native American people internalize the oppressor, which is merely a caricature of the power actually taken from Native American people. At this point, the self-worth of the individual and/or group has sunk to a level of despair tantamount to self-hatred. This self-hatred can be either internalized or externalized. . . Research has demonstrated the grim reality of internalized hatred result in suicide. . .Another way in which the internalized self-hatred is manifested symptomatically is through the deaths of massive numbers by alcoholism. When self-hatred is externalized, we encounter a level of violence within the community that is unparalleled in any other group in the country . . ." (Duran and Duran, 29)
I would like to travel to South Africa and Rwanda to study the process of creating reconciliation councils, and to glean tools that will hopefully ignite a movement of reconciliation in the Aboriginal and Native/First American communities. The reconciliation and the empowerment of women and elders in indigenous and Native/First American groups will facilitate a safe space for ancient wisdom to be transformed into present day healing, economic independence, and self-governance, which I hope to translate into a viable non-profit enterprise based in sustainability.