Indigenous knowledge (IK) understands and talks about knowledge in a different way. It is valued that the primary portals of knowledge into who we are as human beings are our feet, hands, body, heart, and then after this the mind and reason. That is why we teach children through practice dance, song, and prayer before they are able to understand freedom of their own consciousness and thought, and thus, who they are as a human being. This very embodied knowledge gained through the practices of their feet, hands, body, and heart will then serve them when they are depressed or when they are grieving; meaning when their mind fails them their body will “remember” what they need to do. This is the life medicine of good embodied knowledge.
When people talk about trauma and/or intergenerational trauma, they are talking about the negative embodied knowledge that has been ascribed on their being, their bodies, through various pitiful human acts such as physical and sexual violence and demoralization. What happens in the situation of trauma is that in the place where good knowledge should be ascribed, the trauma knowledge is placed or located. The trauma becomes landscaped on, and within, the body and this is what is more easily “remembered” because the body is more familiar with the trauma knowledge versus the medicine of good knowledge. As stated, the body is the more important repository of knowledge; versus the mind and reason.
Growing up in a context where a mother loathes her children, because under the oppressive patriarchal industrial economic rule she had too many children, and worse no resources to care for them, what happens is this woman’s children become more familiar with her practices of loathe and disdain. In short, loathe is ascribed on the body of, or embodied on, the children where love should have been ascribed and embodied. This means the children will be more familiar with loathe so much so that they will confuse it with love. This trauma embodied knowledge is why so many women and men are "attracted" to the wrong partner and repeat the silly things humans do to one another. This "attraction" will continue until they do their most important work of looking deeply at the role their embodied knowledge has had in shaping their life, and they learn how to govern or manage the trauma of their embodied knowledge the best way they can.
Lastly, when a persons embodied knowledge is trauma, the person has to constantly be aware of it, walk around it, and manage it so they do not repeat it or fall into its trap. At all times their mind has to be especially attuned to it.
© Lynn Gehl, Ph.D. is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley. Her most recent book Gehl v Canada is now available for pre-orders: