In its seventh installment, Wisconsin Media Lab introduces Molly Miller, whose Munsee name is Wasalaangweew (Bright Star).
A clan mother among the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, Miller is working to revitalize the Mohican language and culture.
The tribe holds language classes at the Mohican Family Center on the reservation in Bowler, Wisconsin.
Miller lost her son 15 years ago in a car accident and it has been tough for her ever since, but the community pulled together with a healing sweat and talking circles with children in the community.
“Because of his death the culture came back,” Miller says in the video. “I guess he was sent here for 15 years for that reason. So everything I do is pretty much dedicated in the memory of my son.”
She says they are starting over in her community, and that they haven’t had clan mothers in a long time. This can partly be attributed to the historical trauma caused by the boarding school experience.
“There’s a pain and there’s a hurt and there’s an anger. People will say ‘well that happened a long time ago so why do you still hang onto it?’ Well that’s what we mean by historical trauma, it’s still in there,” Miller says in the video.
The damage for the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans started in the early 1600s when their community was in the present-day New England area. Contact with Europeans caused huge changes to their way of life including dependence on trade goods and alcohol. Not only were many members lost to disease and war but the loss of land, language and traditional ways hit hard as well. This was followed by Indian boarding schools, which took away traditional parenting skills and Native ways. Children were sent away from home, forced to cut their hair and not allowed to speak their language.
Miller plans to complete a master’s degree in community counseling and use it with Native teachings to work as a counselor for her people. She will use the Historical Trauma Theory, which holds that Native people are still deeply wounded by what happened to their ancestors, in particular the boarding school experiences.
“I’m still trying to find out my purpose in life. I live as a Native grandmother, a teacher of the language, a teacher of history,” Miller says in the video. “I’m a community helper—healer in the mind and heart.”