On Thursday, the Utah Indian Child Welfare Conference took place in downtown Salt Lake City. The conference focused on trauma experienced by Native American children and how to heal from it.
At the conference, attendees included members of Utah’s eight federally recognized tribes, judges, social workers, and government officials.
Alisa Lee is the Indian Child Welfare Program Administrator for the Division of Child and Family Services. She says the goal of this event is to make offices like hers “trauma-informed agencies.”
"What that means is looking at the child: the things that they’ve gone through. How does that affect them? How does that affect their brain development? How does that affect their executive functioning?" Lee said.
Lee, who is a member of the Paiute and Shoshone tribes, says things like substance abuse, lack of identity, and the effects of growing up in boarding schools have been passed from parents to today’s kids.
"In the boarding schools you would often have one dormitory matron to 80 kids. So the children never developed that child-parent relationship," she said.
Lee says that history continues to play out in the lives of Indian individuals of all ages.
Nathaniel Brown is a Navajo Nation Council Delegate, representing San Juan County. He says this conference is an opportunity to add context for policy-makers.
"As an elected person and going to the state here, to Utah, and meeting with some of the leadership here, they know Navajo, they know Dine people, they know us, but they really don’t know our true history," Brown says.
Brown says this conference is a way to tell their history to people who work with trauma survivors, so they have strategies to move forward.