It’s mid February; the sun is much stronger than it was a month ago. Each day, it rises higher in the South, throwing long shadows from the trees. Today is frigid, with a strong north wind. Tomorrow, we once again warm up, as we enter that late winter up-and-down temperature pattern, heading for Spring.
Lately, I’ve been working with some individuals and families from extended families long governed by multi-generational violence and abuse. Some of these families have their roots in the First Nation, and the colonial experience. Like most Northeastern Native people, the ethnic histories of these families are complex. Complex, for all of the families, First Nations or not, are the histories of alcohol and substance abuse, child abuse, and suffering.
Some of the families are well-educated, others not; there seems no pattern. In some families, individuals have struggled valiantly for generations to overcome the history of abuse. In others, the abuse has continued largely unchallenged until now. In each case, family members are now challenging the domination of abuse with courage and perseverance.
The work of recovering from generations of suffering is challenging work, shared by the members of the family, by the community, and sometimes, by the nation. This is work that has long been a focus of First Nations healers, and communities. (A great example of this is the work of Lonnny Peddycord and the Four Worlds International Institute) A couple of years ago, a group of First Nations people traveled for forty days, across the country, to bring attention to these issues, and to the healing which is going on in First Nations communities. When they arrived in Washington, D.C., they hoped to handover, to the Federal government, a petition requesting an apology for the abuses that occurred at Indian residential schools. These abuses have resulted in suffering for several generations of Native people.
When the group arrived in D.C., they held a healing ceremony at the National Museum of the American Indian. No one from the Federal government appeared to receive the petition. The elders took that in stride, noting that all things happen in their own time.
As a clinician and healer, I know families heal in their own time. Sometimes I find myself impatient, wanting families, communities, and nations to heal now. Yet, I know impatience, unchecked, can be part of the cycle of oppression and violence that keep families suffering. At such times, if I’m lucky, I remember to breathe, pray, and relax into the beauty of the moment. After all, the world is as it is. Everything happens in its own good time. There is, under the surface of events, a larger plan, in which each of us has our small part.
So, I join with families to mine their histories for stories of resistance, generosity, and valor. Together, we build new histories of love, resilience, and caring. We may also create rituals, perform ceremonies, and dream together about that which was lost and may be found again. Such is the stuff of healing; may it sooth all who suffer.