Sunday, April 16, 2006

Memorial Day documentary pitch

You are reading

Wounded Warrior: Native American Veterans Return to “The World”
By Rogi Riverstone
rriverstone at

Like many soldiers returning from their war experience, Native American Veterans face the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Because many of them come from rural and reservation settings, Native American veterans find few support services. This makes them susceptible to what is known as “Sanctuary trauma,” defined as the worsening of psychological symptoms by a support system that fails a traumatized individual. However, there are a few researchers, healing specialists, and social servants who are working to improve reintegration for Native American Veterans by utilizing traditional, Native spirituality, ceremony and ritual into recovery and healing. Traditional reintegration ceremonies for Native warriors include trance and self-hypnosis, to recover subconscious trauma. These practitioners believe these traditional methods could also be beneficial to non-Native peoples who have suffered the effects of trauma.

I plan to interview Native healers, themselves Veterans, who work with Native Veterans. These include Albert Laughter (Navajo), medicine man and Michael Villanueva (Pueblo), Ph.D., CPT (USAR). Both integrate traditional methods with so-called, “Western” medicine. I hope to interview Steve Silver, Ph.D. from the National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD) Clinic at the Center for Veterans Affairs, who is involved in researching traditional Native healing. I will also interview local Native American Veterans about their experiences. I will incorporate healing songs, from a local, Native drumming group and ambient sounds from on-location field recordings to add color to the piece. Through interviews with Native Vets, service providers, family members and community members, we will also examine Native concepts of the role of the warrior, instruction in warfare, traditional values of battle ritual, and social reintegration ceremonies. These will be contrasted with Natives’ experiences with US military policies and procedures, which, some in this field say, exacerbate psychological damage.

I plan, as much as possible, to allow Native Veterans to tell their own stories, in their own words, with brief comments from Dr. Silver. I may open the piece with a brief passage from the novel, Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko: about a Laguna service member returning from combat to his reservation and facing the traumas of his experiences.

This story is timely, as young men and women, Native and non-Native, return from wars in the Middle East and face the trauma of inadequate services at home. If their treatment incorporated traditional, Native techniques and practices, some say, the impact of their traumas could be used for healing, for themselves and their communities.

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