Tommy K. Begay, PhD, MPH

The Impact of American Indian Historical Trauma on Culture, Behavior and Health

A Breakout Session for the Reclaiming Hope Conference

Indigenous people have a unique history in the United States and a distinct relationship with the federal government and its policies. From the forced removal of children to boarding schools and the suppression of language and cultural traditions to the forced relocation of families, and the outlawing of spiritual practices, Indigenous communities have endured historically traumatic events that continue to impact contemporary physical health, mental well-being, cultural expression, and educational attainment. The trauma of the past continues to have lasting repercussions into the present on the self-identity, self-worth, and educational achievement of Indigenous youth. This presentation will focus on the neurophysiological impact of intergenerational coping behaviors associated with a cultural augmentation resulting from historical/intergenerational trauma, and its impact on child development, adult health and behavior.

Dr. Tommy K. Begay is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Arizona. He is a Cultural Psychologist by academic training, focusing on the interrelationship of culture, biology, and environment, to understand human behavior as applicable to health, and wellness. Dr. Begay possesses a Master of Public Health degree, with a specialty in International Health. His research interests include Native American health, especially in relation to the impact of historical trauma, and the subsequent evolution of intergenerational, maladaptive coping behaviors that contribute to the disproportionately high rates of stress-related chronic diseases, cancer, interpersonal violence, accidents, substance abuse, and addiction – all major contributing factors to the contemporary health and wellness of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Dr. Begay is a member of the University of Arizona Sleep and Health Research Program.

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