Sealaska Heritage

NEWS SHI to sponsor lectures on historical trauma

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Community event is free, open to the public

July 18, 2019

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor two free lectures next week as part of a presentation on historical trauma in Alaska Natives and Native Americans and responses by Native communities on how they are addressing that trauma.

The presentation, Historical Trauma in Southeast Alaska, will include lectures by two presenters, Brenda Thayer and Daniel Press. Thayer will discuss traumas that occur in Alaska Native communities, the impact of those traumas, and what Alaska Native people are doing to heal. Press will discuss the approaches Native American communities in the Lower 48 are using to address trauma, Congressional legislation related to addressing trauma, and the long-term goals of those advocating for trauma-informed legislation. He will also provide an overview of the handbook he wrote to assist Native communities, A How-to Handbook on Creating Comprehensive Integrated Trauma-Informed Tribal Communities.

A Q&A and discussion session will follow the lectures.

The presentation is scheduled from 2-4 pm, Tuesday, July 23, at Sealaska Heritage, 105 S. Seward Street in Juneau. It will be videotaped and put online. Everyone is welcome.

These lectures were scheduled in response to public interest that has accompanied SHI’s collaborative epigenetics study with a team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Through the study, researchers are seeking to gain greater understanding of the biological consequences of European colonization that may be shaping adverse health outcomes among Alaska Natives.

“That Indigenous Peoples suffer from historical trauma is a well-established fact. However, our collective efforts to address the consequences are in their infancy. We want to build healthy societies, and learning and understanding the consequences of trauma through these lectures is an important step towards healing,” said Rosita Worl, president of SHI.

The study, Epigenomic Effects of European Colonization on Alaska Native Peoples, first took place in Juneau June 17-21, and will continue this fall when investigators in the study plan to visit Hoonah. The research in Hoonah is being conducted in coordination and consultation with the Hoonah Indian Association.

Tlingit people living in or descendant from Hoonah who are 18 years or older and interested in participating should contact Ripan Malhi at or SHI’s Culture and History Director Chuck Smythe at or 907.586.9282.


Brenda Thayer was raised in Yakutat and is currently program manager for SEARHC in Sitka. She is a nationally certified counselor with 22 years of experience in mental health and substance abuse work in Alaska, Texas, New Mexico and Oregon. Her experience with historical trauma includes: her own lived experience growing up in a small Tlingit community, completing studies by Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, providing therapy using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for people impacted by historical trauma and proving classroom instruction on prevention specific to historical trauma to 7th and 8th graders in Yakutat.

Dan Press has provided legal representation and assistance to Native tribes, Native organizations and companies doing business with tribes for more than 40 years. He assisted tribes with strengthening their governments, promoting economic development in Indian Country and providing counsel. He also serves as pro bono general counsel for two national organizations who provide assistance to communities on addressing the social and health problems that emerge from childhood trauma (such as Adverse Childhood Experiences–ACEs) and historical trauma. In November 2018, he received the Public Advocacy Award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies for "Outstanding and Fundamental Contributions to Advancing the Social Understanding of Trauma."

This program is made possible by a grant from the Alaska Native Education Program as part of SHI’s PITAAS program.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116,