Program aimed at young adults comes to San Juan College


FARMINGTON — An intertribal program that promotes collaboration among indigenous people in their 20s to stop the effect of intergenerational trauma visited San Juan College on Friday.

The Indigenous 20 Something Project was initiated last year and developed from a discussion between indigenous people about creating healthy relationships and collaborations to overcome intergenerational trauma, according to its website.

Shalene Joseph was one of three trainers responsible for the session at the college's Henderson Fine Arts Center. Joseph said the project is designed for people in their 20s to use collective collaboration to heal and to stop the ongoing impacts of historical and intergenerational trauma on a person's well-being.

That includes identifying and understanding the trauma, then moving toward change, she said.

"Historical and intergenerational trauma is not always something we have been through directly, but it could be our grandparents or their grandparents," she said.

"When we understand those behaviors, we can then begin to understand the empathy that we can have and that we do have," she added.

The project, a service offered by Native Wellness Institute, also highlights the use of intergenerational wisdom to overcome obstacles and to remind participants that there is good in communities.

Native Wellness Institute is a nonprofit organization based in Gresham, Oregon, that encourages the well-being of Native people through programs and training that include traditional teachings.

"Just because we have these ongoing negative aspects in our communities doesn't mean that's who we are," Joseph said.

She added trainers and participants work toward breaking the cycles that are most prevalent in communities and changing the social construction of being a contemporary indigenous person in her or his 20s.

So far, the project has been taken to 23 tribal communities. Friday's visit to San Juan College was the first time it had been brought to Farmington. 

Josh Cocker, another project trainer, said by visiting various tribal communities, the program shares the message that members of this generation can become leaders.

Shayna Tsosie, who works at the college, attended the discussion based on recommendations from students who had participated in a session at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.

"It's neat to see people from different tribes come together and share how they talk and what world they come from and their traditions," Tsosie said, adding she wanted to learn about how others approach challenges.

Dione Adakai said the session provided space for students like her to connect and talk about ways to overcome obstacles.

"I think it's great. Everyone has been open," Adakai said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

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