Documentary Film on Historical Trauma
Dennis Banks spoke to us in a pre-interview discussion. He asked us where the name “Dodging Bullets” came from. We told him “patients with chronic health problems, are constantly dodging bullets from the effects from their treatments”. He responded, “I really like that name, it is impactful, and do you know that we have been Dodging Bullets for over 200 years.”
America’s fickle love affair with Native Americans is limited to revisionist stories of passive Indian maidens like Pocahontas and Sacajawea or fierce doomed warriors like Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. Worse, the modern stereotype America has about Native Americans is limited to the oppressed drunkard or the fat casino cat, neither of which deserves understanding nor empathy. No matter what kind of image is evoked, you can’t win if you’re Native: A successful ‘Indian’ exploits the American way by not giving back his fair share and a downtrodden ‘Indian’ can’t pull himself up by his boot straps no matter how much government assistance he’s given. Native Americans are blamed for not taking responsibility for the plight of their people and told that they don’t deserve help or money despite the fact that Native Americans have the highest poverty rates and the lowest access to health care of any race in the United States.
But when we look beneath the stereotypes and understand the issues and statistics of what’s really happening in Indian Country, the truth is surprising, complex, and frustrating. There are spiritual, psychological, and physical wounds experienced in large numbers of the Native American population and these hurts have a name, Historical Trauma. The theory of Historical Trauma stemmed from research done by Dr. Maria Yellowhorse Braveheart in her own community during the 1980’s and this research continues to this day by groups of sociologist, psychologist and scientists.
Dodging Bullets, confronts Historical Trauma head-on through interviews and discussions with young Native Americans whose lives are stricken the effects of Historical Trauma. The film explores research by professionals whose work helps develop a better understanding of Trauma, how it relates to Native Americans specifically and provides insight into ways we can improve the outcomes of Native people dealing with these challenges. The individuals interviewed in the film come from a variety of social and economic backgrounds: for example, a middle-school student living on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation recovering from the trauma of losing her brother to a shootout with police; a former A.I.M. (American Indian Movement) soilder who, now late in life, speaks about the importance of love; sociologist and psychologists who are focused on on-site research studies in Indian country; a NIH-funded scientist who has studied and evaluated the epigenetic changes caused by trauma; a recovering alcoholic who has gone back to culture and is working with youth in Indian country to teach them mino bimaadiziwin (to lead a good way life). Live and scored music, provide an influential and authentic backdrop to the film as well as an insight from a musical storytellers point of view.
Dodging Bullets’ subjective credibility comes through interviews with professionals whose careers focus on developing an understanding of Historical Trauma. However, the substantial impact of the film comes through the personal stories captured of First Nations People who are resiliently living with the effects of Historical Trauma. Ultimately, it will take understanding and acknowledgment of Historical Trauma and modern day issues, as well as systemic changes to health care, before there can be true healing in Indian Country. Without serious change, the scars of their ancestors will continue to haunt the Seventh Generation (a term used to describe contemporary Natives who live seven generations after the last Indian Wars were fought).