Indigenous Ceremony and Traditional Knowledge: Exploring their use as models for healing the impacts of traumatic experiences




Nyman, Sheila A.

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Using Indigenous methodology and a story telling method this thesis is the result of research that looks at the benefits of traditional Indigenous ceremony and healing practices as a way to heal from traumatic experiences. A thematic analysis technique was employed to reveal four themes that emerged from the stories told by Indigenous Knowledge Keeper participants. The first theme is the importance of our connection to all living things including our own selves. Another is recognizing our greatest teachers nature and animals. Cleansing emerged at the center of all traditional healing strategies and the final theme encompasses all that we are as life on this planet spirit or energy. Trauma can be understood as any event that creates difficulty for the individual to cope whether the event that caused the experience was purposeful or accidental. While people do find amazing ways to cope with circumstances that are overwhelming, neurobiology tells us how trauma is processed and impacts the workings of the brain. Trauma in the nervous system can be understood as the result of a person or group or community’s inability to stay safe or to feel safe during the experiences. Indigenous people live with the ongoing effects of intergenerational trauma caused by colonization including the Indian Residential School experience, as well as ongoing systemic oppression. All traumas can activate the deeply held traumas that have been transmitted trans-generationally. In essence we carry intergenerational traumas. I believe that Indigenous people were practicing healing on a regular basis within their traditional ceremonies, dances and practices before contact and these practices may inform a model of health and wellness that could be useful in healing the effects of trauma that impacts Indigenous people today. Ceremonies and traditional teachings were shared communally before contact and are now being revived as we embrace the cultural practices of our ancestors across this land. Within our Indigenous ways of knowing we recognize that we are related to everything in creation we are connected and depend on one another. In 1884, under the Potlatch Law & section141 of the Indian Act our ceremonies, spiritual practices and traditional knowledges were made illegal; our people were imprisoned for practicing them (UBC First Nations Studies, 2009). Today we are in a state of desperation for healing strategies that work for who we are as a people. The Elders in this research shared how this can be done.



Indigenous, Ceremony, Knowledge Keepers, Somatic Experiencing, Poly-vagal Theory, Energy, Spirit, Connection, Social Engagement, Trauma, Story Telling, Nature and Animals as teachers, Cleansing, Healing and Renewal, Intergenerational Trauma, Indian Residential School, Sixties Scoop, Indian Act, Genocidal policies, Okanagan, Syilx, Ancestors