American Indians (AI) have persevered through historical trauma and oppression and many communities are thriving and promoting resilience. However the modern context for the AI presents many challenges for tribal youth who disproportionately experience adverse childhood events (ACEs). ACEs include such things as physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect, family substance use or abuse, domestic violence in the family, or mental illness in the family. A growing body of research has linked child maltreatment and/or exposure to violence to a broad range of long-term health problems. In order to nurture resiliency within the community, accurate measures of trauma exposure and resiliency are needed. The proposed research aims to measure ACEs and resiliency in Native American youth; to understand the factors that contribute to resiliency in youth; and to investigate the unique cultural practices that focus efforts toward renewal through cultural and community-based intervention models. The social ecological model frames our overall research to better understand the complex interplay between individual, family and community and strength based factors to overcome adversity.
Specific Aim 1 : To quantify the factors contributing to ACEs in AI youth, and the individual and community strengths necessary to advocate for the most effective programs that build individual and community resiliency. We will use validated scales to conduct a cross-sectional assessment of AI youth (grades 9-12) to measure strengths, resilience, adversity and related constructs. This will allow us to identify and measure the risk and protective factors most highly associated with ACEs and the differences in factors between those with high and low/no ACEs.
Specific Aim 2 : To employ storytelling to contextualize the AI strengths, including cultural practices that focus efforts toward renewal through cultural and community- based intervention models. Storytelling sessions will be conducted with 1) tribal mental/behavioral health and trauma assessment providers and 2) tribal leaders and Elders to identify how resiliency is cultivated individually, in families, and the community through economic opportunity, mentors and role models, organized community programs for families, a school environment that promotes prevention, and the family structure and Indigenous ways of knowing. Identifying needs and strengths will also allow us to identify, develop and adapt interventions in collaboration with our CAB to assist AI youth who suffer from ACEs to help them to thrive in their community.