Over the past century, the U.S. child welfare system has had a history of continuous violations against American Indian families and children in the name of "helping." Members of Tribal nations have experienced many inequities resulting from child welfare intervention, including through Federal Government policies that forced the removal of Native children from their homes and placed them in boarding schools, which led to the separation of families. The boarding schools not only separated children from their homes and families, but they also did not allow them to participate in their Native cultural or spiritual practices or speak their language in an effort to strip them of their Indigenous identity and culture. Many children also experienced abuse and neglect at the hands of the teachers and staff at the boarding schools. has contributed to a high level of distrust and intergenerational trauma that has continued to affect American Indian and Alaska Native families and impact child welfare work. In this section, find resources related to the cumulative emotional and psychological trauma over the course of generations following the loss of individuals and their culture.
Addressing Historical Trauma and Preparing the Child Welfare Workforce [Video]
Quality Improvement Center for Workforce Development
Discusses historical grief and trauma and the importance of preparing the child welfare workforce to more effectively work with families.
“Cultural Genocide” and Native American Children
Equal Justice Initiative
Explains the history Native Americans in the late 19th century when many were confined to reservations and the Federal Government engaged in cultural assimilation by forcing thousands of Indigenous children to attend boarding schools.
Engaging Native Families [Video]
Capacity Building Center for Tribes (2021)
Discusses the historical and intergenerational trauma Native children and families have experienced as well as trauma-informed engagement approaches professionals can take with Native families.
Government Boarding Schools Once Separated Native American Children From Families
Explains how thousands of Native American children were forcibly separated from their families in order to tear them away from their history, religion, and culture.
Honoring Children: Treating Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities
BigFoot, Lamb, & Delmar (2018)
Adult Development & Aging News
American Psychological Association
Provides an overview of the intersection of adverse childhood experiences and historical trauma within Native American communities and how it affects treatments, practice, and policy.
Missing and Murdered Native Americans (MMNA): A Public Health Framework for Action
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration for Native Americans (2020)
Outlines policies and programs to help Native American children, families, and communities address the consequences of the victimization of Indigenous communities, specifically missing and murdered Native Americans.
National Congress of American Indians
Provides resources to help Tribal governments protect their treaty and sovereign rights and inform the public and Congress about the governmental rights of American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Outreach & Resources for Native American, Tribal & Indigenous Communities (PDF - 107 KB)
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (2021)
Presents information and resources for Native American, Tribal, and Indigenous communities on missing children from those communities.
Stress & Trauma Toolkit for Treating Indigenous People in a Changing Political and Social Environment
American Psychiatric Association
Discusses the experiences of Indigenous people and their responses to intergenerational trauma.
Trauma & Resiliency (PDF - 747 KB)
Capacity Building Center for Tribes (2020)
Provides resources and websites to help child welfare professionals gain a better understanding of traumatic experiences, how to cope, and resilience for Tribal children and families.
Trauma-Responsive Care: A Framework for Resilience for Tribes [Video]
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (2020)
Identifies the impact of adverse childhood experiences on children, caregivers, and families to help child welfare professionals gain a better understanding of culturally responsive approaches to support resiliency.
Understanding the Impact of Historical Trauma Due to Colonization on the Health and Well-Being of Indigenous Young Peoples: A Systematic Scoping Review
Smallwood, Woods, Power, & Usher (2020)
Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 32(3)
Reviews the impact of historical trauma on Indigenous young people. The study found that historical and intergenerational trauma have an ongoing impact on members of Native populations.