Resilience Runs in Our Veins Too 


As an Indigenous person you are often told that the trauma of your ancestors lives in your very genetic make-up – and it’s true, it does – but what is often forgotten is that the resiliency of our ancestors also runs in our veins. We are the product of our ancestors’ fire to survive. As Indigenous people, no matter how much intergenerational trauma we and our communities may live with, we come from some of the most resilient people on Earth. That is a strength that we all carry inside us and can pull from at our hardest moments, when the world and system we live in feels built against us. Remember, we are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.   

Intergenerational trauma can mean many things, but for the context of this blog I will define it as four main sub-concepts as they relate to Indigenous people and communities: 

  1. Indigenous people carry genetic markers from ancestral trauma, which can cause effects of trauma even in Indigenous people who may not have necessarily had direct personal experiences of that certain trauma.  
  1. Generations of Indigenous peoples’ mental health continue to be harmed by the ongoing effects of genocide and colonialism. These include land dispossession, loss of language and connection to culture, generational poverty, and communal grief.  
  1. Unresolved trauma from experiences such as stolen generations and abuse in government-run “schools” for Indigenous children has led to ongoing trauma for generations of Indigenous people, due to cyclical issues like addiction or family/interpersonal violence.  
  1. The mental health of individual Indigenous people continues to be affected by personal and communal experiences of trauma caused by living in an inherently white supremacist, anti-Indigenous society; such as the higher rates of sexual and physical violence experienced by Indigenous women around the world, or violence against Indigenous men from police forces.  

None of these issues are the fault of Indigenous communities or prove the inherent “weakness” that white supremacy likes to think we have – they are understandable human responses to generations of trauma, violence and grief that Indigenous people can recover from.  

All of these issues, plus a general lack of access to culturally appropriate/safe mental health care or trauma support for Indigenous communities, mean that Indigenous people can often feel like we are fighting a constant uphill battle. But, when given access to affirming mental health and trauma support, even the biological, genetic markers of intergenerational trauma can be reversed.  

As Indigenous people we will likely always be affected to some extent by what our ancestors and communities have gone through/continue to go through, as we are very communal people. However, we can remind ourselves of that resiliency we also inherit, step into our power, and live fulfilling lives despite all that we are up against.  

We are allowed to be vulnerable, to be hurt, and to not always be strong – but we do hold a tremendous amount of strength simply by still being here, after everything our people have gone through. If survival is all you can do, that is still amazing, but you deserve to thrive. Your ancestors would want that for you.