The historical trauma response is a constellation of characteristics associated with massive cumulative group trauma across generations, similar to those found among Jewish Holocaust survivors and descendants. Trauma response features include elevated mortality rates and health problems emanating from heart disease, hypertension, alcohol abuse, and suicidal behavior. This article explores gender differences in the historical trauma response among the Lakota (Teton Sioux) and the correlation with health and mental health statistics.
The theory of a Lakota historical trauma response is first explained. Traditional gender roles are described in combination with modifications engendered by traumatic Lakota history. Then, data from a study on Lakota historical trauma are presented, including gender differences in response to an experimental intervention aimed at facilitating a trauma resolution process.
The data revealed significant gender differences. The sample of women presented initially with a greater degree of conscious affective experience of historical trauma. In contrast, the men reported more lifespan trauma associated with boarding school attendance and appeared to be at an earlier stage of grief. However, at the end of the intervention, women's experience of survivor guilt–a significant trauma response feature–decreased while men's consciousness of historical trauma and unresolved grief increased. Degree of traditional presentation-of-self, including phenotype, appeared to interact with gender to place male participants at greater risk for being traumatized over the lifespan and perhaps subsequently utilizing more rigid defenses against the conscious 2experience of the trauma with the exception of survivor guilt. The article concludes with a discussion of health and mental health implications for prevention and treatment of the trauma response which could positively impact the health status of the Lakota. Recommendations for future research are suggested. [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-342-9678. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org