Native Depression-A Result of Colanization?

Native Depression-A Result of Colanization?

In case you weren't aware September is National Suicide Prevention month so we're going to take some time to talk about a very serious topic-depression.

Depression is a serious illness. One that affects thousands of Native Americans every day. In the past few years, an epidemic of suicide has spread across the youth of Indian country. The Pine Ridge Reservation, for example, reported 103 suicide attempts of people aged 12-24 from December 2014-March 2015.

Our people are taking their own lives, and it has Native communities searching for answers.

Many members of the Indigenous community have a theory.

What’s the root cause for so much anguish and pain that are people see suicide as the only way out?


It sounded strange to me at first too, but after tons of research, it’s actually making sense. You might be asking how something that happened hundreds of years ago could be affecting us today. The truth is two tiny words control the habits of our people:

  • Generational Trauma

Generational trauma is defined as-

trauma that is transferred from the first generation of trauma survivors to the second and further generations of offspring of the survivors via complex post- traumatic stress disorder mechanisms.

Otherwise known as historical trauma-

a term used by social workers, historians and psychologists, refers to the cumulative emotional and psychological wounding of an individual or generation caused by a traumatic experience or event.


What does that translate to in plain English?

Recently a new science has emerged called “epigenetics”. It is an in-depth way to study genes and DNA. Epigenetics has found cause to believe that (due to a very long scientific explanation) our DNA carry traumatic memories from our ancestors and pass them down through the generations shaping how we react to teams and stress factors.

Colonization, the massacre’s, and issues that happened as a direct result were traumatic. So traumatic in fact that our people still feel it effects to this day.

Not only did the colonists massacre our ancestors and strip away pieces of our culture they introduced us to alcohol.

Now 1 in 10 Native deaths are alcohol-related.

The alcoholism rate contributes to the fact that 40% of Native Women experience domestic violence.

The high domestic violence rate leads to substance abuse.

All of those issues lead to the poverty rate, high rate of depression, and eventual suicide rates among so many promising youths.

It’s a deadly domino game, with the first domino being placed the minute Columbus stepped foot in the Americas.

So, what can we do to combat all of these things?

  • Revive our culture.

Our culture is our identity. Feelings of a loss of identity can lead to feelings of depression. Go to ceremonies, powwows, and reclaim your Indigenous Identity.

  • Respect our women.

Most Native tribes are matriarchal. We recognize the sheer power and wisdom women hold within themselves. It’s not in our culture to disrespect that. Break the cycle and call on the strength of our heritage by respecting the women in your life.

  • Get help

On top of all of these things remember that a lot of times depression is caused by deficiencies in the brain. Thanks to medicine today there are many steps you can take to treat it. Talk to counselors, your doctors, and lean on friends and family in times of need.

  • Stick together.

If you see someone who’s really feeling the extent of these feelings reach out. As Indigenous people, we need to look out for one another.

If you or a friend are feeling suicidal or you simply need to talk you can call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255

Last Updated on January 14, 2019 by Paul G

About Jazmyn Espinoza-Church

Jazmyn Espinoza-Church is a bestselling Native American Author, advocate for Native youth, and freelance journalist. When she's not writing or mentoring she can be found in her Michigan home, hanging out with her fiance and two sons.

6 Comments on “Native Depression-A Result of Colanization?”

  • Avatar for Rick Knox

    Rick Knox


    I am part Cherokkee Indian.My name is Rick Knox.I think people need to go out to resevations and volunteer to help Native Americans on Reservations.Not just talk but action.I would like to see Native Americans recognized.Having a Native American National Holiday or Native American week to show our appreciationThe United States government is disgusting Our government took all their land that is a crime.The Native Amercans deserve to have three or four states of any choosing.The United States government did not buy their land,they stole it.That is no different than Hitler or Stalin or Napolean. All movies make Native Americans look like bad people That is a lie to cover up white mans anger and hatred toward Native Americans and the crimes white people do against Native Americans.How much would all the land be worth that we stole from Native Americans?We use propaganda against Native Americans.Native Americans deserve our respect.How would you feel if someone took your land and house and put you on a reservation.I hope this reaches some people and we begin to reach out to Native Americans instead of just offer our advice.Senator Elizibeth Warren is part Native American.She is reaching out with love and caring to Native Americans.Rick Knox

  • Avatar for Maggie Bugden

    Maggie Bugden


    Native people..connect with the wilderness.there you shall find your peace of mind! Go back to nature…soak in the natural!!

  • Avatar for Kathleen kaplan

    Kathleen kaplan


    There is at least one white person out there who is outraged and saddened to hear of this plight you most beautiful of beautiful people have endured and still endure. I wish to bear the shameful acts of my own ancestors to hasten your recovery. Please stop killing yourselves. Please stop drinking. Please remember what warriors you are and how beautiful that is. I’m amazed at the strength of how you fought/fight for the pipeline not being built. We as the world at large so need a people that CARE. You are a light in the darkest of times. Please keep shining. Please forgive us as a parent must at times forgive the folly of a young child. You can and must persevere.perseverez.theres an acute culture of shame ( shame is what causes inaction) the needs to heal. You exist for a reason. To show us how to live beautifully. With nature, not against it.You must not kill yourselves when there is no one to do it for you. That is becoming your enemy. You were made to live. Your ancestors fought so hard for you to be here today. Do not let the sadness kill you. Fight! For yourselves. I am always reading your newsletters, trying to remind and educate fellow whites that you are here still and have rights. I am Always wishing to undo the grave injustices. To hear about young warriors taking their lives and further hurting their own communities, is the saddest thing on earth. I am just one white person, but there are others. We watch you with great reverence. I am so sorry your cultures were denied you. That you learned our evil ways, that we still brazenly destroy so much life . I am just one person out here, but you as a tribe mean the world to me. Each precious baby, child, teen, adult , and elders face that I gaze on has the mark of being loved . Please forgive us. Or please at least forgive me. Just one white person, who cares but doesn’t know what to do to make this better.

  • Avatar for Brian Figueroa

    Brian Figueroa


    I stand behind you let’s not forget who we are. Let’s fight for our survival and children. Our ancestors fought for our survival let’s not give up. May the Great Spirit guide us all through this difficult journey.

  • Avatar for Monica



    Depression is neither a person, place or thing. It is a state of mind and must be treated with mind treatment.
    With that said, Native Communities must treat themselves. They must understand how the mind works. It can work for you or against you. Whatever you think, becomes your reality. This being so, we have to train our minds to think and focus on the good. If there is no good in our lives, then we have to make it. This power is in every human being.

    • Avatar for Gray Fox Middleton

      Gray Fox Middleton


      It is much deeper with the Native American people, it not only their minds (thoughts, imagination, etc), but their hearts (spiritual foundation). This spiritual foundation governs the mind, the European view that was introduced in 1492 (Columbus) and 1600 on, especially in 1620 (Cape Cod, MASS) was introduced with the mind and physical being first recognized, then the heart. To our ancient people this is out of order before all living creation created, but over the years from 1620 the mind and physical might was introduced as the ruling factor to our people, therefore we lost the true and original foundational vision given to our ancestors. We, the people of the land suffer due to this lost, our communication with a living planet has been curtailed. We need to go back to reexamine these times, especially starting from 1620 when the European Colonial system of education was introduced. There we will find our Achilles heel, that cripples our people (male and female, young and old) to present day.

      Can they be brought together the heart (spiritual foundation) and the mind (thoughts., imagination, etc) of our people, YES, but only in the right order for our people to exist into the future.

      Gray Fox the Elder

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