November 26, 2011

"Thick dark fog" = PTSD

New Documentary Tracks Cultural Genocide of American Indians

By Rose AguilarA new documentary, "The Thick Dark Fog," shines a light on the traumatic boarding school experience through the telling of personal stories. The film focuses on Walter Littlemoon, a Lakota who was forced to attend a federal government boarding school on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in the 1950s. Littlemoon says his culture, language and spirituality were brutally suppressed.

"The government school had tried to force me to forget the Lakota language and I wouldn't do it," he says in the film. "We had a deep sense of preservation for our culture, so we would go and hide in order to speak Lakota. If we got caught, they were allowed to beat us with whatever they could, but we took that chance. The Lakota language is something that comes from deep inside of you. It comes from how you look at things and how you see things."

"The Thick Dark Fog" profiles Walter's healing process and attempt to reclaim his heritage. "It wasn't until my sixtieth year that I began to realize that there was more to me. Something was missing. It was like I was a nonbeing," he says. "I didn't know the medical words of multigenerational trauma or the complex post-traumatic stress disorder, so I called the problem what I felt it to be: the thick dark fog."

One of the film's more haunting moments provides a montage of excerpts of interviews with Indians describing their boarding school experiences:"We had all our clothes taken from us."

"I remember always going to bed hungry."

"We were being punished, but none of us really knew why."

"It wasn't punishment. It was beatings. You'd put your hands down and they'd slam the desk down on your hands. They'd take you downstairs and make you kneel down on either a broom handle or a pencil."

"Soap. That's what she used to wash my mouth. I'll never forget the burning, the choking, the helplessness, the fading out that I went through."
American Indian Film Festival Honors ‘The Thick Dark Fog’

By Stephanie WoodardAn important part of Littlemoon’s journey was figuring out why he experienced alternating flashbacks and sensations of numbness—which he called the “thick dark fog.” After consulting a Harvard Medical School psychological-trauma expert, Littlemoon learned he was suffering from Complex Post Traumatic Stress, which arises from childhood ordeals. Once his fear had a name, he could fight it and win, he said. Littlemoon hoped others would take courage from his discovery and wage their own battles against the debilitating effects of the residential institutions.

“Several younger people told me seeing the film helped them better understand their parents or grandparents,” said Littlemoon. “One guy was crying after the panel discussion and saying he now realized it was his boarding-school experience that had caused him to fight so much with his parents.”

The revelations weren’t confined to the Native community, according to Littlemoon: “A Japanese man who’d been imprisoned as a child in World War II concentration camps told me he could now explain to his children how that affected him. I felt the film had impact. We got our message out, and it felt good.”
Comment:  This shows how laughable the "get over it" school of thought is. Indians have suffered a long series of injustices, of which being kidnapped, brainwashed, and tortured in a boarding school is just one example. This produces stress akin to the stress suffered by US soldiers in Iraq, who are committing suicide in record numbers. Is anyone telling the soldiers to "just get over it"? Then why would anyone say that to Indians?

For more on intergenerational trauma, see Subtle Racism = Psychological Torture and Intergenerational Trauma = PTSD.

Below:  "Director Randy Vasquez, left, and Walter Littlemoon, Oglala Lakota, the subject of Vasquez's new film on the Native American boarding-school experience, shown at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, where the movie won Best Documentary Feature."


Anonymous said...

If there's anything about the government boarding schools, it shows just how little enforcement there is over such things. I mean, hell, an IHS doctor at the time could probably sterilize an Indian woman against her will, and she die during the surgery, and get off with, at most, a slap on the wrist.

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see:

Violent homes have the 'same effect on brains of children as combat does on soldiers'

The brains of children are affected by family violence in the same way as combat affects soldiers, according to a study.

In both cases the brain becomes increasingly wary of potential threats.

For children, the changes may increase susceptibility to mental health problems, say experts from University College London (UCL) and the Anna Freud Centre.

Children who suffer abuse or witness domestic violence are known to be at greater risk of anxiety and depression in later life.