Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Intergenerational Wisdom through Autoethnography

  • Author(s): Joseph, Shalene Niltinna
  • Advisor(s): Champagne, Duane W
  • et al.

Indigenous scholars and academics play a pivotal role in creating and defining social terms and frameworks for what it means to be a Native person in contemporary U.S. society. These terms and frameworks contribute to social norms, how we as Native people view ourselves, and how others view us. In this study, I draw on the work of Native scholars and practitioners who have been instrumental in conducting groundbreaking work to document the role of historical and intergenerational trauma in the continuity and disruption of tribal epistemologies and lifeways. The groundbreaking work on historical trauma has provided explanatory models for educational and health disparities that do not lay blame at the individual level. These models, in contrast to deficit-based narratives that focus on what is inherently "wrong" with Native peoples and cultures, point to structural, historical, societal, and structural determinants for inequities. In this thesis, I employ autoethnography to develop historical and intergenerational wisdom as a parallel and complementary strand of work to historical and intergenerational trauma. Drawing on my life-long experience with the Native Wellness Institute, a national non-profit organization, as well as interviews with leaders in the Native wellness and healing movement, including family members, I sift through information, stories, and examples from everyday experiences to bring forth the spirit of our ancestors. By doing so, I aim to simultaneously change models in academia that have fore-grounded deficit-based narratives and re-focus the lens on abundance-based, also referred to as strength-based or culture-based, research. A framework of intergenerational wisdom can guide and influence future students and scholars as well as permeate beyond academia. As individuals, families and communities continue to learn more about historical and intergenerational trauma, they can also learn more about historical and intergenerational wisdom. My hope is that through this, Indigenous peoples will understand that the answer to trauma is healing and the tools to healing are embedded in intergenerational wisdom.

Main Content
Current View