Mary Pember: Defining and dealing with our historical trauma

The St. Mary's Shrine on the Bad River Reservation in Wisconsin. Photo from Art's Bayfield Almanac

Mary Annette Pember goes back to the Bad River Reservation in Wisconsin to visit a boarding school where her mother and grandmother lived:
I walk over the grounds where my mother and grandmother lived at the Sister School on the Bad River reservation in Wisconsin. Life there was harsh and often brutal. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know about the trauma my relatives endured there; although they aren’t my direct experiences, their stories have always been with me. Today’s rain is also filled with a bitter shower of their days.

I’m here to grieve those lost childhood days for them, something they were never permitted to do. Before I can begin I need know the whole story.

The prospect of drilling deeper into my personal corner of historical trauma, however, is more daunting than I had anticipated. I’ve written several stories about my mother’s life, her boarding school experience and how it spilled over onto me and my family. I thought I’d grown inured to trauma and believed my role as a journalist would protect me from its impact. But standing here on the ruins of the Sister School, I feel vulnerable and afraid.

Although this story is part of a journalism project describing the theory of historical trauma, the emerging science of its impact on our minds and bodies and describing methods to heal it, I’ve decided to occasionally step out of my journalist’s role. I will include some of my experiences and in the process care for my well being along the way, something journalists aren’t always encouraged to do.

Get the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: We Have to Know It to Heal It: Defining and Dealing With Historical Trauma (Indian County Today 12/1)

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