Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 18
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Elm, Jessica H. L. Lewis, Jordan P. Walters, Karina L. and Self, Jen M. 2016. “I'm in this world for a reason”: Resilience and recovery among American Indian and Alaska Native two-spirit women. Journal of Lesbian Studies, Vol. 20, Issue. 3-4, p. 352.

    Nettles, Saundra Murray 2016. Aging Women of Color: Engagement and Place. Women & Therapy, Vol. 39, Issue. 3-4, p. 337.

    Osman, Amira and Walsemann, Katrina M. 2016. Ethnic Disparities in the Onset and Progression of Functional Limitations Among Israeli Middle-Aged and Older Adults: Socioeconomic and Health-Related Pathways. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, p. gbw007.

    Paradies, Yin 2016. Colonisation, racism and indigenous health. Journal of Population Research, Vol. 33, Issue. 1, p. 83.

    Rosas, Lisa G. Vasquez, Jan J. Naderi, Ramin Jeffery, Nicole Hedlin, Haley Qin, FeiFei LaFromboise, Teresa Megginson, Nancy Pasqua, Craig Flores, Orena McClinton-Brown, Rhonda Evans, Jill and Stafford, Randall S. 2016. Development and evaluation of an enhanced diabetes prevention program with psychosocial support for urban American Indians and Alaska natives: A randomized controlled trial. Contemporary Clinical Trials, Vol. 50, p. 28.

    Schultz, Katie Walters, Karina L. Beltran, Ramona Stroud, Sandy and Johnson-Jennings, Michelle 2016. “I'm stronger than I thought”: Native women reconnecting to body, health, and place. Health & Place, Vol. 40, p. 21.

    Warbrick, Isaac Dickson, Andrew Prince, Russell and Heke, Ihirangi 2016. The biopolitics of Māori biomass: towards a new epistemology for Māori health in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Critical Public Health, Vol. 26, Issue. 4, p. 394.

    Wemrell, Maria Merlo, Juan Mulinari, Shai and Hornborg, Anne-Christine 2016. Contemporary Epidemiology: A Review of Critical Discussions Within the Discipline and A Call for Further Dialogue with Social Theory. Sociology Compass, Vol. 10, Issue. 2, p. 153.

    Zambas, Shelaine I. and Wright, Jennifer 2016. Impact of colonialism on Māori and Aboriginal healthcare access: a discussion paper†. Contemporary Nurse, p. 1.

    Blue Bird Jernigan, Valarie Peercy, Michael Branam, Dannielle Saunkeah, Bobby Wharton, David Winkleby, Marilyn Lowe, John Salvatore, Alicia L. Dickerson, Daniel Belcourt, Annie D’Amico, Elizabeth Patten, Christi A. Parker, Myra Duran, Bonnie Harris, Raymond and Buchwald, Dedra 2015. Beyond Health Equity: Achieving Wellness Within American Indian and Alaska Native Communities. American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 105, Issue. S3, p. S376.

    Feagin, Joe and Bennefield, Zinobia 2014. Systemic racism and U.S. health care. Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 103, p. 7.

    Krieger, N. 2014. Discrimination and Health Inequities. International Journal of Health Services, Vol. 44, Issue. 4, p. 643.

    Krieger, Nancy 2014. Got Theory? On the 21st c. CE Rise of Explicit use of Epidemiologic Theories of Disease Distribution: A Review and Ecosocial Analysis. Current Epidemiology Reports, Vol. 1, Issue. 1, p. 45.

    Mohatt, Nathaniel Vincent Thompson, Azure B. Thai, Nghi D. and Tebes, Jacob Kraemer 2014. Historical trauma as public narrative: A conceptual review of how history impacts present-day health. Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 106, p. 128.

    Evans-Campbell, Teresa Walters, Karina L. Pearson, Cynthia R. and Campbell, Christopher D. 2012. Indian Boarding School Experience, Substance Use, and Mental Health among Urban Two-Spirit American Indian/Alaska Natives. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Vol. 38, Issue. 5, p. 421.

    Gee, Gilbert C. Walsemann, Katrina M. and Brondolo, Elizabeth 2012. A Life Course Perspective on How Racism May Be Related to Health Inequities. American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 102, Issue. 5, p. 967.

    Krieger, Nancy 2012. Methods for the Scientific Study of Discrimination and Health: An Ecosocial Approach. American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 102, Issue. 5, p. 936.

    Walls, Melissa L. and Whitbeck, Les B. 2012. Advantages of Stress Process Approaches for Measuring Historical Trauma. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Vol. 38, Issue. 5, p. 416.


BODIES DON'T JUST TELL STORIES, THEY TELL HISTORIES: Embodiment of Historical Trauma among American Indians and Alaska Natives1

  • Karina L. Walters (a1), Selina A. Mohammed (a2), Teresa Evans-Campbell (a1), Ramona E. Beltrán (a3), David H. Chae (a4) and Bonnie Duran (a5)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 15 April 2011

Increasingly, understanding how the role of historical events and context affect present-day health inequities has become a dominant narrative among Native American communities. Historical trauma, which consists of traumatic events targeting a community (e.g., forced relocation) that cause catastrophic upheaval, has been posited by Native communities and some researchers to have pernicious effects that persist across generations through a myriad of mechanisms from biological to behavioral. Consistent with contemporary societal determinants of health approaches, the impact of historical trauma calls upon researchers to explicitly examine theoretically and empirically how historical processes and contexts become embodied. Scholarship that theoretically engages how historically traumatic events become embodied and affect the magnitude and distribution of health inequities is clearly needed. However, the scholarship on historical trauma is limited. Some scholars have focused on these events as etiological agents to social and psychological distress; others have focused on events as an outcome (e.g., historical trauma response); others still have focused on these events as mechanisms or pathways by which historical trauma is transmitted; and others have focused on historical trauma-related factors (e.g., collective loss) that interact with proximal stressors. These varied conceptualizations of historical trauma have hindered the ability to cogently theorize it and its impact on Native health. The purpose of this article is to explicate the link between historical trauma and the concept of embodiment. After an interdisciplinary review of the “state of the discipline,” we utilize ecosocial theory and the indigenist stress-coping model to argue that contemporary physical health reflects, in part, the embodiment of historical trauma. Future research directions are discussed.

Corresponding author
Karina L. Walters, School of Social Work, University of Washington, Box 354900, 4101 Fifteenth Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98105. E-mail:
Hide All

The theoretical development of this work was supported in part by the Network for Multicultural Research on Health and Healthcare, Dept. of Family Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; as well as supported in part by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (5U01HL087322-05), National Institute of Mental Health (MH65821), the Office of Research on Women's Health, The Office of AIDS Research, and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Peter Bennett (1999). Type 2 Diabetes Among the Pima Indians of Arizona: An Epidemic Attributable to Environmental Change? Nutrition Reviews, 57(5): S51S54.

Sarah R. Brand , Patricia A. Brennan , D. Jeffrey Newport , Alicia K. Smith , Tamara Weiss , and Zachary N. Stowe (2010). The Impact of Maternal Childhood Abuse on Maternal and Infant HPA Axis Function in the Postpartum Period. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 35(5): 686693.

Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart (1999). Oyate Ptayela: Rebuilding the Lakota Nation Through Addressing Historical Trauma Among Lakota parents. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 2(1): 109126.

David H. Chae and Karina L. Walters (2009). Racial Discrimination and Racial Identity Attitudes in Relation to Self-Rated Health and Physical Pain and Impairment Among Two-Spirit American Indians/Alaska Natives. American Journal of Public Health, 99(S1): S144S151.

Teresa Evans-Campbell (2008). Historical Trauma in American Indian/Native Alaska Communities: A Multilevel Framework for Exploring Impacts on Individuals, Families, and Communities. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23(3): 316338.

Robin Holliday (2006). Epigenetics: A Historical Overview. Epigenetics, 1(2): 7680.

D. S. Jessop , L. J. Richards , and M. S. Harbuz (2004). Effects of Stress on Inflammatory Autoimmune Disease: Destructive or Protective? Stress, 7(4): 261266.

G. Kaati , L. O. Bygren , and S. Edvinsson (2002). Cardiovascular And Diabetes Mortality Determined by Nutrition During Parents' And Grandparents' Slow Growth Period. European Journal of Human Genetics, 10(11): 682688.

Nancy Krieger (1999). Embodying Inequality: A Review of Concepts, Measures, and Methods for Studying Health Consequences of Discrimination. International Journal of Health Services, 29(2): 295352.

Nancy Krieger (2005). Embodiment: A Conceptual Glossary For Epidemiology. Journal of Epidemiological Community Health, 59(5): 350355.

Nancy Krieger and George Davey Smith (2004). “Bodies Count,” and Body Counts: Social Epidemiology and Embodying Inequality. Epidemiologic Reviews, 26: 92103.

Christopher W. Kuzawa and Elizabeth Sweet (2009). Epigenetics and the Embodiment of Race: Developmental Origins of US Racial Disparities In Cardiovascular Health. American Journal of Human Biology, 21(1): 215.

Stephen G. Matthews and David I. W. Phillips (2010). Minireview: Transgenerational Inheritance of the Stress Response: A New Frontier in Stress Research. Endocrinology, 151(1): 713.

Donna K. Nagata , Steven J. Trierweiler , and Rebecca Talbot (1999). Long-Term Effects Of Internment During Early Childhood In Third Generation Japanese Americans. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 69(1): 1929.

Janelle F. Palacios and Carmen J. Portillo (2009). Understanding Native Women's Health: Historical Legacies. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 20(1): 1527.

T. E. Seeman , L. F. Dubin , and M. Seeman (2003). Religiosity/Spirituality and Health: A Critical Review of the Evidence for Biological Pathways. American Psychologist, 58(1): 5363.

Karina L. Walters , Ramona E. Beltran , David Huh , and Teresa Evans-Campbell (2011). Dis-placement and Dis-ease: Land, Place and Health among American Indians and Alaska Natives. In Linda M. Burton , Susan P. Kemp , ManChui Leung , Stephen A. Matthews , and David T. Takeuchi (Eds.), Communities, Neighborhood, and Health: Expanding the Boundaries of Place, pp. 163199. Philadephia, PA: Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.

Karina L. Walters and Jane M. Simoni (2002). Reconceptualizing Native Women's Health: An “Indigenist” Stress-Coping Model. American Journal of Public Health, 92(4): 520524.

Les B. Whitbeck , Gary W. Adams , Dan R. Hoyt , and Xiaojin Chen (2004). Conceptualizing and Measuring Historical Trauma Among American Indian People. American Journal of Community Psychology, 33 (3-4): 119130.

Rachel Yehuda and Linda M. Bierer (2009). The Relevance of Epigenetics to PTSD: Implications for the DSM-V. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 22(5): 427434.

Rachel Yehuda , Stephanie Mulherin Engel , Sarah R. Brand , Jonathan Seckl , Sue M. Marcus , and Gertrud S. Berkowitz (2005). Transgenerational Effects of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Babies of Mothers Exposed to the World Trade Center Attacks during Pregnancy. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 90(7): 41154118.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
  • ISSN: 1742-058X
  • EISSN: 1742-0598
  • URL: /core/journals/du-bois-review-social-science-research-on-race
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *