Folks in Indian country wonder what took science so long to catch up with traditional Native knowledge.

Trauma May Be Woven Into DNA of Native Americans

Mary Annette Pember

Trauma is big news these days. Mainstream media is full of stories about the dramatic improvements allowing science to see more clearly how trauma affects our bodies, minds and even our genes. Much of the coverage hails the scientific connection between trauma and illness as a breakthrough for modern medicine. The next breakthrough will be how trauma affects our offspring.

The science of epigenetics, literally “above the gene,” proposes that we pass along more than DNA in our genes; it suggests that our genes can carry memories of trauma experienced by our ancestors and can influence how we react to trauma and stress. The Academy of Pediatrics reports that the way genes work in our bodies determines neuroendocrine structure and is strongly influenced by experience. [Neuroendocrine cells help the nervous and endocrine (hormonal) system work together to produce substances such as adrenaline (the hormone associated with the fight or flight response.] Trauma experienced by earlier generations can influence the structure of our genes, making them more likely to “switch on” negative responses to stress and trauma.

In light of this emerging science and how it works with the way we react to trauma, the AAP stated in its publication, Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Lifelong Consequences of Trauma, “Never before in the history of medicine have we had better insight into the factors that determine the health of an individual from infancy to adulthood, which is part of the life course perspective—a way of looking at life not as disconnected stages but as integrated across time,” according to the AAP in their recent publication examining the role of Adverse Childhood Experience (ACES) on our development and health. The now famous 1998 ACES study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente showed that such adverse experiences could contribute to mental and physical illness.

“Native healers, medicine people and elders have always known this and it is common knowledge in Native oral traditions,” according to LeManuel “Lee” Bitsoi, Navajo, PhD Research Associate in Genetics at Harvard University. (Courtesy SACNAS)

Folks in Indian country wonder what took science so long to catch up with traditional Native knowledge. “Native healers, medicine people and elders have always known this and it is common knowledge in Native oral traditions,” according to LeManuel “Lee” Bitsoi, Navajo, PhD Research Associate in Genetics at Harvard University during his presentation at the Gateway to Discovery conference in 2013.

According to Bitsoi, epigenetics is beginning to uncover scientific proof that intergenerational trauma is real. Historical trauma, therefore, can be seen as a contributing cause in the development of illnesses such as PTSD, depression and type 2 diabetes.

What exactly is historical or intergenerational trauma? Michelle M. Sotero, an instructor in Health Care Administration and Policy at the University of Nevada, offers a three-fold definition. In the initial phase, the dominant culture perpetrates mass trauma on a population in the form of colonialism, slavery, war or genocide. In the second phase the affected population shows physical and psychological symptoms in response to the trauma. In the final phase, the initial population passes these responses to trauma to subsequent generations, who in turn display similar symptoms.

According to researchers, high rates of addiction, suicide, mental illness, sexual violence and other ills among Native peoples might be, at least in part, influenced by historical trauma. Bonnie Duran, associate professor in the Department of Health Services at the University of Washington School of Public Health and Director for Indigenous Health Research at the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute says, “Many present-day health disparities can be traced back through epigenetics to a “colonial health deficit,” the result of colonization and its aftermath.”

According to the American Indian and Alaska Native Genetics Research Guide created by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), studies have shown that various behavior and health conditions are due to inherited epigenetic changes.

Authors of the guide refer to a 2008 study by Moshe Szyf at McGill University in Montreal that examined the brains of suicide victims. Szyf and his team found that genes governing stress response in the victim’s hippocampus had been methylated or switched off. Excessive trauma causes us to produce hormones called glucocorticoids which can alter gene expression. Chronic exposure to this hormone can inhibit genes in the hippocampus ability to regulate glucocorticoids. Szyf suggested that the genes were switched off in response to a series of events, such as abuse during childhood. All victims in the study were abused as children.

Nature or Nurture? It’s Both!

Szyf, in collaboration with another scientist at McGill, Neurobiologist Michael Meaney, did research showing a significant difference in the hippocampus between adults rats raised by attentive and inattentive mothers. Adult offspring of inattentive rat mothers showed genes regulating sensitivity to stress to be highly methylated. The rats with attentive moms did not.

To test their research they switched the parents for rat babies born to bad and good mothers. The babies born to attentive moms but given to inattentive moms also developed highly methylated genes and grew to be skittish adults. The opposite proved true for babies born to bad moms but given to good moms. As adults the rat babies born to bad moms but raised by good mothers appeared calm.

This research seems to combine the historically polarizing theory of nature versus nurture in determining behavior. Nature is that which is inherited while nurture is the environmental influences.

Native researcher Teresa Brockie PhD, Research Nurse Specialist at the National Institute of Health suggests that such gene methylation is linked to health disparities among Native Americans. In her article in Nursing and Research and Practice, she and her research colleagues note that high ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experience) scores have been linked to methylation of genes that regulate the stress response. They further noted that endocrine and immune disorders are also linked to methylation of such genes.

The researchers found that Native peoples have high rates of ACE’s and health problems such as posttraumatic stress, depression and substance abuse, diabetes all linked with methylation of genes regulating the body’s response to stress. “The persistence of stress associated with discrimination and historical trauma converges to add immeasurably to these challenges,” the researchers wrote.

Since there is a dearth of studies examining these findings, the researchers stated they were unable to conclude a direct cause between epigenetics and high rates of certain diseases among Native Americans.

One of researchers, Dr. Jessica Gill, Principal Investigator, Brain Injury Unit, Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Nursing Research wrote in response to questions to the NIH’s public affairs office, “Epigenetic studies provide a unique opportunity to characterize the long-term impact of stressors including historical trauma on the function of genes. The modification of gene function through epigenetic modifications can greatly impact the health of the individual and may underlie some of the health disparities that we observe in populations including Native Americans. This line of research is of great promise for nurse scientists, as it will be instrumental in the promotion of the health and well-being of patients impacted by trauma and stress.”

Although epigenetics offers the hope of creating better and more specific medicines and interventions for mental health problems, it also suggests the notion that Native peoples and other ethnic groups may be genetically inferior.

Researchers such as Shannon Sullivan, professor of philosophy at UNC Charlotte, suggests in her article “Inheriting Racist Disparities in Health: Epigenetics and the Transgenerational Effects of White Racism,” that the science has faint echoes of eugenics, the social movement claiming to improve genetic features of humans through selective breeding and sterilization.

Inherited Resilience

Epigenetics is indeed a hot topic, and pharmaceutical companies are actively searching for epigenetic compounds that will help with learning and memory and help treat depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Many researchers caution, however, that the new science may be getting ahead of itself. “There is a lot of research that needs to be done before we will understand whether and how these processes work,” says Joseph Gone, professor at the University of Michigan and member of the Gros Ventre tribe of Montana.

Scientific developments such as epigenetics can offer exciting new insights not only into how our bodies react not only to trauma but also how we manage to survive it.

Native peoples ability to maintain culture and sense of who they are in the face of such a traumatic history suggests an inherited resilience that bears scientific examination as well, according to Gone.

Isolating and nurturing a resilience gene may well be on the horizon.

This project is made possible by support from The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism and Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, University of Southern California;  the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism.

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hammertime's picture
Submitted by hammertime on
This is A Very good article... thank you It makes me wonder how far back does this trauma go in the genes...?? Thousands of years ago the Romans brutally enslaved everyone in Europe.. So.....does this mean that everyone on earth , including white people, have trauma from the past in their genes today?? On some sub-conscious level in the genes, are we playing out some sort of desire to inflict and dominate others like what was done to us in our past in the present moment?? I suppose you have to become aware of this and somehow heal yourself... or forgive others .?

cakmn's picture
Submitted by cakmn on
Excellent article. The bad news is that, yes, genetic expression seems to be inherited - some research suggests for as long as two to three generation, perhaps more. The good news is that it is possible that we can "switch" our genetic expression through our own life experiences. This provides us with a chance to recover from our inherited traumas. The challenge is that this is difficult for us if we are carrying inherited traumas that inhibit our awareness, knowledge, ability and capacity to do what we need to do to recover. The biggest issue is that we do not recognize and embrace our oneness with each other, with all beings. A great deal of restorative nurturance is required. It takes a village to raise a child. The whole world is a village. We are all children. We need to always try to do our best to help each other. We are all in this together, intimately and inextricably interconnected and interdependent. We need to try to do our best to act accordingly. Our opportunity is to embrace Love. Love is what unites us. When love is lacking, when fear rules us, things always begin to fall apart. The pharmaceutical companies may be "actively searching for epigenetic compounds that will help," but our only real hope is to be more loving, in all its many forms, the highest of which are respect, compassion and being of service to each other.

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
It does seem to make sense-likely that trauma can add to stress which in turn affects-impacts the GENE of ALL PEOPLES…not just "native american". Diabetes and food-borne are a US-National issue and disgrace considering the availability of "food" over-the counter to not just native americans but to the rest of the country. American-US life span is longer in comparison with rest of the world. Native american life span is behind average American but still ahead of most countries/nations in the world! Like Europeans, is stress woven into the DNA of other nations/people throughout the world, i.e. third world nations/countries?

hammertime's picture
Submitted by hammertime on
tmsyr11....I think you are totally right about the transferrence of trauma in the DNA with most of Europe too... The Nazis of WW2 totally traumatized the Jewish people and you will probably see it in their offspring for generations to come and now they are doing the same to the people of Palestine. The RUSSIANS are also a totally traumatized people... first by their dictator Joe Stlan, , and then by .A Hitler... Then you see it again in hungary and serbia and it keeps repeating itself ..spinning out of control through the ages.... I think it goes back further than we realize probably thousands of years back or more...sort of makes me wonder if the healing that needs to be done is similar to something like past life regression .?? Thanks again for the article..

Charles Scribe's picture
Charles Scribe
Submitted by Charles Scribe on
It is a very interesting article indeed. My work revealed these situations do occur. As a Traditional Healer since the early nineties, I first learned about this in 1994 in a ceremony I was performing. It was revealed that the illness, in this case cancer, my patient endured resulted from emotional trauma that had travel through the birth canal. Although the patient could not recall experiencing emotional trauma, a deformity in the cells was occurring. I have since worked on many individuals who had suffered as a result of the Residential (Boarding) School System documenting some of these cases.

choctawgirl's picture
Submitted by choctawgirl on
I think it's wrong to suggest a race of people are genetically inferior based off of the fact they were targeted for warfare. That's completely different. Being attacked and dealing with the trauma and after effects of war doesn't equate to people being genetically inferior. That's ridiculous. Have you ever spoken to a Native with PTSD? Or do you make assumptions and pretend to know? I have, every night of my life and you couldn't be more wrong. I don't think they realize indian kids know more about warfare than most adults lol It sounds like a manipulative way to belittle a race of people because whites don't understand them or who we are and it's your only excuse because you don't really know anything about it and never actually have conversations with them. I'm practically a professional when it comes to that because they don't have any friends and they wouldn't understand anyway. English is a poor language with no feeling which is why they want everyone speaking it. I think too often Natives allow whites to bully and manipulate and tear them down and go along with their mentality. Whites do this on purpose in order to make them feel inferior. Whites are always pushing their insecurities onto other people and then Natives do it to each other because it's learned behavior and they don't even realize it.

WhiteManWanting's picture
Submitted by WhiteManWanting on
Over 30 years ago I sat in a workshop on alcoholism at which research was presented that conclusively showed a multi-generational pass-down effect. When male mice were addicted to alcohol for a period of time before being totally withdrawn for a significantly extended period of time before breeding, the male children of those previously addicted mice were at a far greater risk of developing alcoholism when given a choice between water and water/alcohol mix. Clearly there was some sort of pass-through because of the male parent's prior (but long-since "resolved") addiction to alcohol. Yet I've seen very little follow up on that study despite well over three decades of time in which to follow it up. The study of classical homeopathy also reveals a clear relationship to current health (both mental and physical) from diseases in past generations as well as trauma even before birth. One cannot help uncomfortably laughing (not because of the humor, but because of the irony) at the contrast between the following two statements from the article: "Today, those in Indian country are wondering why it took science so long to catch up with traditional Native knowledge in connecting trauma of the past to pain of the present," vs. "The generational connection between genes and emotions represents cutting-edge research. 'Never before in the history of medicine have we had better insight into the factors that determine the health of an individual from infancy to adulthood' ... ." The only question should be, "Why has it taken this long to do serious study about something so important, that has been 'known' for so long?" Or perhaps answering that "why" question doesn't really matter. Instead, the fact that the question is significant should be providing the motivation to make up for lost time in not only understanding how it works, but more important, how to resolve the trauma going forward. A relative handful of skilled trauma therapists, as well as a small number of highly skilled homeopaths, have long known how to significantly resolve the passed-down issues, but little has been done to find ways to apply that knowledge for the benefit of much larger numbers of people. And to cakmn: thank you! The pharmaceutical companies are NOT where the solution is.

WhiteManWanting's picture
Submitted by WhiteManWanting on
choctawgirl: I read the article thoroughly (and with great interest to me personally). Then I read the 8 comments before yours. But when I read your comment, I went back and read them all again, wondering what I'd missed. I just don't see it stated - or even implied anywhere - that Native Americans (or anyone else for that matter) are "genetically inferior." I agree, that would be highly offensive and just wrong-headed. But perhaps I missed something - please point it out for me. Personally, I saw this article as a much-too-late "revelation," but at least welcome because it's finally being more formally studied. Are you perhaps equating injury with inferiority? If a person loses a limb, they do not become inferior to anyone else, they merely become artificially limited in some respects, often finding (or being provided) ways to work around or even overcome those limitations. That's all I see here in this article and resulting comments - not a condemnation or degrading of anyone. And if I insensitively missed it, my sincere apology.

chris.lyons's picture
Submitted by chris.lyons on
This is really great research. However, the key piece of information that requires insight is the child abuse element because all the study participants were abused, as mentioned in the article. It seems that the abuse is the common variable and is what probably caused the trauma and not so much the gene theory. There is plenty of research and evidence that supports the traumatic affects of child abuse. What should be addressed along with the great research is what is causing the child abuse, and how to stop it so that more Native American kids do not experience its horrors, and devastating affects into adulthood. A study should be done with non-abused individuals as well and then compare and contrast to the abused victims to provide more support to the article position on the gene theory. Great stuff though!

ppmickey's picture
Submitted by ppmickey on
This is a terrific article. There's been another study that I read about where children produced from parents that come from very poor families have the same types of genetic problems and are more likely to at some time in their lives, end up very poor. The same types of illnesses are associated with that as there are with the trauma genes being passed on. I am still trying to research to find out who my real maternal grandparents were. They were extremely poor. This stops with my brother and I. We've never had children. I don't see that as an option for Native American's. We are 1/8th Eastern Band Cherokee. The pure-blooded and even half-blooded Native Americans need to have children and hope for a cure for this genetic problem. I hope it also helps those who have come from very poor families.

Sherri White
Sherri White
Submitted by Sherri White on
This is so cool and I can remember my grandmother who is also full blooded Muskogee Creek only use remedies from outside in the woods to treat us ! She said they always lived off the land because they was not only poor but that was the way they was taught and raised !

Peggy Clem Gooday
Peggy Clem Gooday
Submitted by Peggy Clem Gooday on
As a member of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe (Chiricahua Apaches), I am living proof of this case for epigenetics and trauma seeping through generationally. And, yes, we Indigenous people have told of this in our stories and songs for millenia. It is good to know that the powers that be are starting to listen. Thank you for an excellent article. Peggy L. Gooday, Chiricahua Apache

Kathryn Ayers
Kathryn Ayers
Submitted by Kathryn Ayers on
I see several people who have stated they feel it's "White" people putting the past trauma on Natives, but epigenetics goes beyond race. It's evident in the Holocaust Survivors, Slavery, and in many genocides in "white" race areas as well. And not everyone that shows symptoms has been abused in their own life. This has been around for's not new information.

Beth MottStenerson
Beth MottStenerson
Submitted by Beth MottStenerson on
Kathryn Ayers is correct, this is nothing new in the psychology field as it relates to complex PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and its effect on not only the current generation of abuse/trauma survivors, but the epigenic effect it has on the following generations as a result. Regardless of race, that which happens to us in our lifetimes culminates in mental and health disorders of all kinds, and/or triggers genetic changes in our bodies which can be passed on to our children, both genetically and behaviorally, if untreated. All people, regardless of race must "do the work" to rise above the inherent oppression of embedded in our system of government (I mean the U.S. government, I can not speak for the tribal government) and white, priviledged society which would like to continue to keep all poor people down, regardless of race, color or creed. One of the major points in discussions about the Native American population and the high incidence of addiction surrounds the fact that for centuries before the white man came to this continent, native americans did not drink alcohol or imbibe in mind altering substances other than naturally occuring things, such as peyote etc. which was used only for important rituals under specific circumstances, and thus, have no natural epigenically developed "defense" against such substances. Just as many natives succumbed to the viral diseases the Europeans brought with them very quickly in the early years of colonization, such as small pox, Native Americans succumb more quickly to the effects of drugs and alcohol, unlike the people of European descent. A wonderful native american woman who was involved in many discussions on LinkedIn in the PTSD groups pointed out that as a therapist, she recommended that the tribes seeks therapy through their own people, rather than through standard therapists of european descent. At first I was quite taken aback by her suggestion, but as she continued to explain, I saw the inherent wisdom in her position, and feel that she is right. It is very important, given the history of our Native American Tribes that they seek help and healing through their own people, who may be trained in the white world, but respect and understand the many challenges of those living on the reservation, as well as those who have chosen to integrate into mainstream America. I believe for the Indian Nation to heal, you must strike a comfortable balance between past and present, and that individuals need the therapuetic support they need at the Reservation to help overcome the trauma of your history in the U.S. May God and Mother Earth Bless You in your travels and travails...and let the spirit guide you to the greatness that is within all of you.

Teresa Descilo-Brechtel
Teresa Descilo-...
Submitted by Teresa Descilo-... on
Just as our negative experiences can impact our gene expression, positive and healing experiences can also impact in an empowering way. This is not an invitation to invent more drugs and disempowering ways: it is possible to truly resolve trauma - our own and our ancestors.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Have any studies been completed showing how far this generational trauma exists? Certainly the ills that Jews suffered during WWII are much fresher than those suffered by Natives in the 17th and 18th century. Still, this is a significant find and one that may explain the difficulty in getting out from under the stigma and weight of genocide.

Tip Rouse
Tip Rouse
Submitted by Tip Rouse on
A good article, but one that should not be used to legitimize the notion of a race of genetic victims. We are what we force ourselves to become, not some magical losers destined to failure because our ancestors were the victims of a stronger or more numerous group.

Ray Evans Harrell
Ray Evans Harrell
Submitted by Ray Evans Harrell on
Epigenes do not only transfer trauma but talents, inclinations and even pattern memories. An "Epigene" is a geological term for a mineral that has crystallized on a larger mineral and is attached but ultimately, without more chemical crystallization, will be overwhelmed by the greater mineral it's attached to. On the other hand, more materials, or in the case of individuals, more studies and practice, can make an epigene become a part of an individual's life, a talent, a skill, a virtuosity. So, this has many implications. Where, for example, did all of these un-enrolled Cherokees come from? The cynical view is that someone wants to take something from someone else. But the epigenetic view is that the feeling and the cultural habits that the child manifests even without a connection to the Dawes Rolls, are real and should be taken seriously. The transfer of cultural patterning's epigenetically are just one more thread in the blanket of identity that should turn people from a liability into a great potential for a real modern nation and not just a tribal family. Epigenes show the family connections people don't remember and courts don't realize. I would call this Indigenous Science. REH, Nuyagi

you_wish_dude's picture
Submitted by you_wish_dude on
i agree with this, it is proven that trauma can be epigenetically inherited. the descendants of prairie settlers who witnessed relatives murdered, burned and scalped by native americans before their eyes are sure to be epigenetically affected as well. :) what is fair for the goose ...

marlahan's picture
Submitted by marlahan on
hammertime. i am taking a class on DNA. The new science is discovering that the "junk DNA" contains memory going back through 6 generations of our ancestors. critical life events were stored in their DNA and passed forward for survival. as you can imagine, most of the events stored were trauma based. The signature of that DNA then radiates out from your morphogenetic field in a particular frequency unique to you. pretty interesting stuff.

marlahan's picture
Submitted by marlahan on
hammertime. i am taking a class on DNA. The new science is discovering that the "junk DNA" contains memory going back through 6 generations of our ancestors. critical life events were stored in their DNA and passed forward for survival. as you can imagine, most of the events stored were trauma based. The signature of that DNA then radiates out from your morphogenetic field in a particular frequency unique to you. pretty interesting stuff.

allrock123's picture
Submitted by allrock123 on
I will certainly second the feelings on its not just native peoples ,, there is an experience that thousands of people went through in relation to the release of a mirror story film written by James Cameron called Avatar ,, (No relation in any way to the Avatar course or organization) where people had very personal experiences with they deep family history in relation to historical trauma in there family tree leading some to dive very deep into finding the seeds running under there "core" ethos perspectives and intensely emotive acts of purging them from the roots of there ethos,, its very hard to find the right words to express this here and it seems to impact people with challenges in the autisum spectrum the strongest ,, simply search on post Avatar depression phenomenon or there are some thoughts on this spoken on in the youtube video 'Avatar' is also a story of deep DNA within many Americans " the level of "reflection" incite layers and "transformation" in peoples lives took many by surprise.. I am willing to talk about it if there is interest.

Tim shay's picture
Tim shay
Submitted by Tim shay on
Well I find it interesting that I found this article while reading about the Oak Flats Arizona Apache land grab for mining, the trauma continues with our earth so why should it take studies like this to say that we are traumatized? I mean given the state of the world are we not all traumatized ? Look at the history of man period or even the history of the people that came to this land ; were they not rejected by their own people,persecuted ? As an example the Jewish people or the Irish! So are we not all in the same boat. War is a terrible thing, it's not just the immediate effects its the lasting effects! I'm strong believer of inter generational trauma and its effects because I have lived it, and now look for the way to treat it , the answer is in our own communities and in each of us, human beings have the resilience to change and adapt , God given gift of love ,understanding,and compassion ,Period!

Suswecha's picture
Submitted by Suswecha on
Most comments here are far better for questions and discussion than those in mainstream media. The questions can in many cases be only tentatively answered, as the epigenetic processes are still being studied, and it is not always easy to identify the trauma that produced them outside of the laboratory work being done on captive animals. Rats are a highly social species, by the way, who have been shown to refuse to eat when it causes pain to another. For more on them you'll have to check the psych literature. Methylation has been proven so far to last sometimes at least two generations, although much or most, or sometimes all is erased when creating germ cells to make the next generation. Hippocampal neurogenesis occurs throughout a person's lifetime, and so all new communications cells can be affected by the different switching on or off of genes that the article discusses. Let me try to translate that last in useful terms: Salient memories are related to strong emotional events and ties, and the brain exists for movement and evaluation/learning/useful response using memory, in all movers. Memory and choices made, whether by you or my other intimate relatives, the wolf, are made in a central part of the brain called the limbic system, which developed in us from the part that evaluates smell. This is why the wolf and bear and others still seek to smell for assessing the final truth of something. in this most important part of the brain, the links evaluate threat, produce our fear, and strongly use association to be able to evaluate. So, the comment on PTSD is highly relevant, as it is a problem resulting from the ability to connect memories and social evaluations. Many other natural beings do this as well, and so can suffer if they are exposed to cruel stresses. Since those who are, are part, or deeply relate to, indigenous suffering, they literally connect to traumatic memories in themselves, including injustice, both the use of associational cortex and internal connections to epigenetically-changed connections are enhanced. Two-leggeds are mostly concerned with social things - our brains are what are called obligate social, and our kind is utterly socially dependent - which is why many tribes learned well that isolation was a way for one to recontact their original self that contains the characteristics of ancestors back to the beginnings. This is why people do well to seek relationship to ALL their relatives, which are every living being, and most long before we learned the cruelties of vengeance and resentment. Sociality in our kind , and that of my brothers, were and are vital to survival, even though we both need walkabout or hanblechia or some similar actions and times of solitude to continually rediscover who we are in spite of ubiquitous possibilities for trauma.. You will notice that although native North Americans are relatively few in number, and the poorest in symbolic possessions of all the humans, that the present worldwide recognition and increasing respect, however limited, is a result of knowing that before the invasions, the pressures forcing us too tightly together, and the atrocities, that we are a great and knowing Oyate, a family group. Let each of us remember to look for the wisdoms taught us, sent and existing as gifts from all ancestors. This is what makes us - genes are part, inseparable from skills both innate and learned. Epigenetic changes do cause us to respond strongly when we encounter the wrong that caused one (I don't believe they are stochastic at all, but occur in active neurons expressing the products of active genes); however, it is somewhat contingent, which is why many returns to thoughts and the relationships with all of life can give a great sense of healing. It has been postulated that most methylation is removed in the egg and sperm creating offspring. But because we can still exhibit behavior and pain that is strange to the young, similar changes can occur in them. I cannot well describe much in nonscientific terms about this, but healing, salience, memory, and choice, do play a part. One can identify the spirit of one known for a long time, and this is because hidden tiny physical changes are always part of every moment of thought and spirit. This is the great mystery, that your brain cells, you, change with every association, with every new sensation. I was just reading about neuronal dendritic growth in response to GABA activity, but I find it difficult to write about to people in terms they can understand. GABA is a neruomodulator, suppressing connections that are not relevant to what's goin' on. There are many drugs like alcohol that change our GABA-genesis, making us think we are focusing well while other tiny connecting signals are suppressed, so that we may NOT be making proper connections, thinking. I mention that last GABA thing so that you may understand that DNA methylation does not totally rule us. There are many and more deleterious, things which do. What's called comorbidity is extremely important, and whatever drugs that may heal can only do so in the right situation. The love of family and the strength of choosing direct our DNA and related tiny and momentary parts of us, so although you may feel trauma and loss more strongly than those who have not so experienced it, you have an understanding which, if you develop it, is far greater than those who are shielded by unfeeling personalities not as common among indigenous as among the broken of the main culture. I have rarely spoken of these things, although I've followed epigenetics for over a decade. Remember that methylation sometimes disappears across generations, more often than not. Remember also that how you treat the young, especially at every moment, carries through time causing them to become different than they were made. The ancient practices developed by some tribes such as the Dene' are a way to bring the damaged back - I speak here of the "Enemy" Way and the other Ways. Wise persons from across far time and space have also taught through traditions how to reverse problems we can acquire. Do not become attached to what you may think is victory or loss. There is weather, there are seasons, you walk among your relatives on this great adventure that is your time, that is your and their beauty. I have lived right up close to the innocent Wolf, even when he took and balanced the life he needed to teach. I told myself some truth I never before knew: He could do no wrong. One day, when he could rise no more, he lifted his head to the South twice, and I spoke to him; he looked into my eyes until his opened into white. I have found it often difficult to travel paths he showed, because of the pain. The South, they tell us, is the Direction of Innocence and Trust. I placed him looking North, the Direction his kind always come as far as they can - that is the Direction of Wisdom, and I don't know the mahpiya thaynin well, but I do know: Do not forget to walk, Puppies, South - this Direction, as well as the others. You carry that Aurora in every moment to light the way in the long nights, for others as well as to find your way.