Using drugs in a harmful way may be a direct result of colonization and intergenerational trauma. Colonization is the attempted destruction of cultures, languages and connection to land and family. Historical trauma can affect families and communities as a result of their experiences with colonization, including the impact of residential schools and other life events.

Types of Trauma

1) A single event

2) An enduring or repeating event

  • Loss of connection to family, community, culture, language, land, etc.
  • Discrimination and racism
  • Long-term exposure to neglect, extreme poverty, violence

3) A cumulative effect where an individual has an accumulation of more than one type of traumatic event; one trauma experience leads to another.

For example

  • Foster care + incarceration
  • Multiple suicides in a community in a short time period
  • Neglect + childhood sexual abuse
  • Poverty + apprehension of children + domestic violence

4) A historical event that usually involves an entire group or community where the outcome of the event continues to have negative consequences over time.

  • Relocation
  • Enfranchisement
  • Loss of status
  • Colonization and assimilation

5) A personal event where the trauma response continues to impact over several generations. Also known as historical or intergenerational trauma.     

  • Indian residential school
  • The 60s scoop
  • Child welfare policies

Changes in gene activity (Epigenetics)

Even our genes respond to trauma that happens to us, through chemical reactions in our bodies in response to stress, diet, behaviour, toxins and other factors.

  • Epigenetics is the study of how the social and physical environments change the expression of our genes and can be both positive and negative.
  • The more generations attending residential schools in a family, the greater the risk for psychological distress.

Protective Factors That Promote Resiliency

The following protective factors strengthen families, help prevent abuse and neglect, and promote healthy (brain) development

  1. Nurturing and attachment
  2. Parenting, and child and youth development knowledge
  3. Parental resilience
  4. Social connections
  5. Concrete supports for parents
  6. Social and emotional support for children



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