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2018-01-11 / Front Page

Indigenous Trauma Expert Doubles as Rock Star

BY VI WALN
LCT CORRESPONDENT


Teaching staff at He Dog School were empowered after a session on trauma. Pictured are (back row L-R) Sharon Hair, Dr. Darryl Tonemah, Autumn Shone, Alexis Hogan and Principal Vikki Eagle Bear. Front Row (L-R) Kyle Homan, Mary Nylander, Lori Schmidt, June Elk Looks Back, Grace Delany, Samantha Johnson, Chaley Fleetwood and Melissa Manchini. Seated is Lindsey Compton. Teaching staff at He Dog School were empowered after a session on trauma. Pictured are (back row L-R) Sharon Hair, Dr. Darryl Tonemah, Autumn Shone, Alexis Hogan and Principal Vikki Eagle Bear. Front Row (L-R) Kyle Homan, Mary Nylander, Lori Schmidt, June Elk Looks Back, Grace Delany, Samantha Johnson, Chaley Fleetwood and Melissa Manchini. Seated is Lindsey Compton. HE DOG – Dr. Darryl Tonemah, a Kiowa, Comanche and Tuscarora Health Psychologist, donated Christmas gifts to the students attending He Dog School last month.

“I’ve done over 50 benefit concerts during the past 18 years and raised over $35,000 to donate to Indigenous children,” Dr. Tonemah said. The gifts for He Dog students were purchased with proceeds from 2 performances he did in Rapid City and Sioux Falls.

Dr. Tonemah spent time on the Rosebud Reservation last month offering encouragement to parents and educators dealing with traumatized children.He demonstrated methods to teachers to use in their classrooms to help students having trouble focusing on their school work.


Dr. Darryl Tonemah spent time at He Dog School helping teachers and counselors better understand the effects of trauma in children. Photo by Vi Waln Dr. Darryl Tonemah spent time at He Dog School helping teachers and counselors better understand the effects of trauma in children. Photo by Vi Waln “Trauma is not a cognitive function, you can’t think your way out of it. Unfortunately, we use a cognitive process to try and heal,” he said. “For instance, take those veterans who served in Vietnam, it’s now 50 years later and if they could have thought their way out of the trauma they suffered, they would have.”

“Trauma doesn’t know future, it only knows now. Trauma is the unfinished cycle of energy, it is stored in our nervous system. Trauma is in the construction, or lack of options and incompletion of a cycle,” he continued. “Trauma is that jolt to the survival center of the brain. We think too much. Don’t rationalize fear, shame or blame!”

“Trauma is more than an event. Trauma often becomes a lifestyle of anger, reaction, hypervigilance and self- medication,” stated Dr. Tonemah. He has worked with Indigenous communities across the United States and Canada, helping young people deal with trauma they’ve experienced.

“Healing occurs in the community, it doesn’t happen in isolation. Trauma’s job seemingly, is to keep itself alive. Trauma is stored genetically in our genetic code. Your descendants are aware of it. It’s like saying I’m going to send a note to my descendants. A similar situation they experience will trigger a gene or memory in them,” he continued.

“No child is broken or ruined,” he said. “We don’t have bad kids. It’s just a kid who has crap at home and his body brought it to school. Start your week with prayer and end the week with prayer. There are more behavioral issues on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons because of what’s going on at home.”

“I am totally down with using culture, ceremony and spirituality to heal,” Dr. Tonemah said. But I can’t tell you to do that, it has to come from the community.”

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