Historical Trauma - Roots and Belonging on Native American Land

Lab Cycle Oct 2020 - July 2021 Report


Patrick Dougherty; Eva Giedt


Cheryl Sarno; David Sherman, Katherine Poco-Enders, Jane Arzt 




We started out with a group of 31 participants and completed with 21 participants. We met for 10 group sessions from December 15, 2020 – June 22,) 2021. 

The lab was framed from the premise that we stand upon land which was inhabited and stewarded by Indigenous people. We also stand upon a violent history of colonization and genocide of Indigenous people. The intention was to:

  • deepen awareness of how unprocessed collective trauma is carried in our bodies and impacts our sense of rootedness and belonging; 
  • gain a greater capacity to relate to and host discomfort from the price Indigenous people have paid and continue to pay. 

The lab included an outside team member (Jim Bear) who is part Mohican and a minister and storyteller.

We explored the following questions:

  • What constitutes the historical background of colonization and genocide of Native American peoples manifest as collective trauma today?  

Each participant selected a piece of land and to varying extents explored the historical and trauma background related to where they reside.  Also, Jim Bear shared stories from his lineage that illustrated how trauma of colonization was propagated.

  • How does the unprocessed trauma of colonization and genocide of Native people influence the construction of identity and the process of ‘othering’ of who belongs here and who doesn’t?

While we did not frame this as a specific exploration it showed up within our group and provided many clues.  Initially we assumed Jim Bear as the only Native American among the team and participants (we did have a part native trainee for the first several sessions). We learned that Jim Bear also has colonizer in his lineage.  We also learned that some of the participants were also part indigenous.  The distinctions raised questions of belonging for the participants.  And at first, Jim treated us as “other.”  This created a range of reactions among participants. Over our time together we began to relate across distinctions and started to see that while labels may have some use they also can interfere with relation.

  • How does the trauma of colonization and genocide influence the development of cultural architecture governing current relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people?

We didn’t explore this intentionally, but several examples did arise.  For example, Jim Bear shared his observations of a small town at its edge of indigenous land in South Dakota that had the sole purpose of selling liquor to the Native Americans.  Also, during the time of our lab, the unmarked graves of indigenous children were discovered at the sites of former boarding schools in Canada.

  • How does our use of language reflect and reinforce the consequences of this collective trauma?

Jim Bear shared some examples. One that stood out was watching the Kansas City Chiefs during the Superbowl.  A commercial suggested increased consciousness regarding cultural appropriation and yet immediately following the commercial a scan of the crowd and mascot demonstrated the worst of cultural appropriation and Jim Bear shared his reaction to this and how it reinforces trauma for Native Americans.

  • How does this trauma show itself in times of crisis (e.g. Covid-19, land management, climate emergencies)?  

There was certainly a heightened awareness of the impact of Covid on native people as well as land issues.  While we did not address these issues in depth they were in the room.

  • Can we collectively create a coherent we-space and a process of witnessing that leads to an integration and eventual healing of this trauma?

What we experienced was a deep coherence that could hold what might look like conflict, diversity of perspectives, pain, and beauty.  In this turbulence, the energy that was released seemed to ground and complete itself. This was a beginning and created possibility.

Stages of our process as a group:

1. Synchronising & Resourcing
As the lab evolved, we learned to build deeper coherence by first ensuring coherence among the facilitator team. Triads and small groups were a great help, tuning into ancestors, body movement and art all helped. Finally deep heartfelt shares and attuned presencing helped create a strong weaving of coherence.
2. Meeting the Collective Trauma Landscape
As a first step, each person was given the assignment to adopt a piece of land, to learn about it especially regarding the Native people who had lived there, and meditate with it. In the first meeting the trauma met us head on as Jim Bear shared some of his experiences. It was also in the room in the relation among those with native blood and those without.
3. Exploring Individual & Collective Conditioning
I am not sure that we explored this as a group. Clearly elements of this came up in Jim Bear’s shares.
4. Listening to Ancestral Roots & Voices from the Field
We did invite participants to connect to their ancestral roots. This was very powerful. I am not sure if this lab touched into the collective field of trauma and listened to the voices from that field. Clearly the sharing touched off trauma that people were carrying as well as ancestral trauma. It is hard to disentangle the personal, the ancestral, and the collective. It seems that there may have been a mixture but in sum the participants may not have done enough individual and lineage work to be fully available for the collective. In a group of 5 with a co-facilitator there was a strong eruption of trapped ancestral energies and a healing that deeply affected all who presenced this. The reporting of this experience in the larger group deepened the experience of the lab.
5. Integrating & Restoring
Clearly integration was occurring. There was a much stronger sense of relating across differences and seeing ourselves as different parts of the same whole. Jim Bear had a shift where he could more fully relate to and honour the participants.
6. Transforming & Meta-learning
There were many comments at the end that provided a sense of transformation and learning. For example, one participant that was part native American was deeply touched and felt more related to and seen with this group than with some of her activist oriented native groups. Another has been involved with indigenous communities in Canada and found this group to be very supportive during such a challenging time. It was a resource she did not find elsewhere.

Moments of Challenge

  • The start seemed fast, and the team did not find the time to create coherence. Hence the pace at the beginning seemed rushed and there was not enough spaciousness
  • We started with a Trainee who had trauma activation in this topic and was unable to hold space. This was a difficult start as we were finding our way. Important to choose team carefully.
  • There was dissonance for some around the role of the trainees and the hierarchy model outlined by TH. This needs to be clarified prior to starting and Trainees agree to it.
  • We had a content expert with no prior exposure to the teachings and he was unwilling to attend the calls. Best to have content experts who are more willing to learn the TH culture.
  • Co-facilitator dynamics were impacting the team and the process. A supervision session was obtained. Over time the dynamics improved. Important for co-facilitators to know each other more before starting and determine the fit.
  • The model of history and timeline was too early in the process and more attention to hearing and getting to know the participants would have been better earlier.


  • Working with ancestors and connection with the Land (especially land before the trauma) created many moments of Grace
  • Breakouts in groups of 5 each group with a team member strengthen the container
  • After a difficult meeting with the content expert the team met and re-designed the next meeting with more safety and listening and therefore more coherence
  • The inclusion of an expressive arts session deepened the process and great beauty emerged
  • The last meeting had many moments of grace including a movement in the content expert opening his heart to the “white” folks.
  • The tragedy of the news of many native children remains found at a school site was included and deeply touched many of us
  • An Hawaiian indigenous woman who has much experience as an activist felt more related
  • A Sami indigenous woman downloaded a moving Juik
  • A descendent of Polish Holocaust victims had an ancestral healing


  • Beginning realization of the importance of knowing ourselves AS the land and not just on the land for the future of Collective Trauma healing
  • Realizations on presencing Ancestors
  • The how to of CTIP coming together more
  • Multi-dimensional weaving as important role of the co-facilitators
  • Including all as what is needing to happen
  • Wondering about the people who left
  • Wondering about the correct time space between labs
  • Sense of team care needed between labs with precise presencing as our nervous systems reorganize

Our lab team

Eva Giedt

Eva Giedt

is a psychotherapist and mental health nurse practitioner in private practice and offers online private sessions utilizing mystical principles. She is passionate about embodied purposeful living, conscious relationships, field awareness, and the explorations at the edge of the known and unknown. She works with individuals and facilitates groups and corporate wellness trainings. She teaches meditation and qi gong and is a certified Hakomi Therapist. Eva has been involved in healthcare as a practitioner and teacher for 30+ years. In 2011 she participated in the first US intensive with Thomas Hübl and has worked closely with him ever since. Eva is a Teacher for the USA Practice Group Leader Training. Eva works and lives in the SF Bay Area and Monterey California.

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Patrick Dougherty

Patrick Dougherty

is a licensed psychologist who has over 40 years of clinical work and decades of working with social despair and collective trauma. The last 5 years he has been developing models and protocols to support therapists, individuals and groups to stay in good relationships as they work towards integrating trauma. Stemming from his experience as a Vietnam veteran, he has a focus on collective trauma cause by involvement in or experience of armed violence, war and genocide. He has been with the Pocket Project since its inception.

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