Healing Poles: Traditional Art for Modern Grief

By Barbara K. Robins.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Historical trauma is an intergenerational problem for American Indians and is blamed for chronic anxiety as well as dysfunctional behaviors for individual and communities. The 9/11 attacks in the United States also created large-scale anxiety in Americans at-large. Shortly after the 2001 attacks, Lummi totem carver Jewell Praying Wolf James envisioned a totem pole project with the goal of healing grieving Americans. James draws upon the spiritual and historical experiences of American Indians to create symbols for the five centuries of colonialism in North America. In addition, he refers to the Lummi iconography of animals, birds, and supernatural beings to create new narratives with the intent of healing anyone suffering from the grief of 9/11. The completed Healing Poles project comprises five poles among the three terrorist attack sites. James’ conceptualization of “Working Art” expands current thinking about the role of art, broadens understanding of indigenous aesthetics, and challenges stereotypes about American Indians as solely victims of colonization.

Keywords: Historical Trauma, Intergenerational Trauma, American Indians, Jewell James, Totem Poles, 9/11 Terrorist Attacks, Working Art, Healing

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 9, pp.201-208. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 528.264KB).

Dr. Barbara K. Robins

Assistant Professor of English and Native American Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska, USA


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