Trauma and Memory

ElaineFrom the conclusion of Elaine Enns’ recent piece “Trauma and Memory: Challenges to Settler Solidarity” in the recent edition of Consensus: A Canadian Journal of Public Theology. Click on to read the full article HERE:

Faith communities among Settlers need to create safe spaces to give testimony about intergenerational trauma, but also provide opportunities for privileged people to face our culpability, and build courage and skill to engage in justice-work. Over the last year I have engaged a variety of groups to do this work. In several Settler workshops I have facilitated a timeline exercise, in which we construct a parallel chronology of our migration stories on one line and Indigenous history on the other. Some participants know in great detail their family and community’s history, but can only plot a few events on the Indigenous line. To complexify our histories, I invite people to engage questions like:

What are the Settler narratives your family and social group tell?

How do people talk about first acquiring or losing their land?

What are the stories told about the first immigrants in your family?

Can you detect any masks or half-truths?

In other settings, I have invited participants to wrestle with the untold stories in their family or communal narrative, probing questions of why and how these stories were silenced, by whom and the impact of that marginalization. We also investigated questions of trauma asking what stories of violence were passed on in family, church or local neighborhood narratives; and how trauma is encoded in these stories. It is my hope that in helping to facilitate my and other Settler faith communities to engage all three themes of this paper (intergenerational trauma, communal narratives and historical response-ability) we can better nurture our capacity to stand with Indigenous communities and their struggles for justice.


One thought on “Trauma and Memory

  1. Thank you, Elaine. Lately, I’ve been wondering about our ancestors’ history of settlement before coming to the Americas. Who, if anyone, did our ancestors displace in Ukraine?

    The farther back I go in my ancestors’ migration narratives, the more credible the stories become of previously uninhabited land – swamps and inland seas they supposedly drained and developed – and the stronger the narratives become of their own forcible displacement.

    I know your family’s migration story diverges from mine in the Ukraine period, as mine came to the Americas earlier, for reasons involving more economic motivations and less trauma. I also know Canadians are much farther along in dealing with their conduct toward First Nations. The Indigenous people my ancestors displaced in the US had already experienced previous forced migrations and many more generations of actual and cultural genocide, complicating their stories even more.

    You always give good food for thought. Thank you.

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