On November 23, the Indigenous Social Welfare Caucus organized its first community event in partnership with the American Indian Graduate Program and the School of Social Welfare. The event, titled Intergenerational Resiliency, featured Jessica H.L. Elm LePak (MSW '09) as a guest speaker, resource and Indigenous social welfare advocate.
A Berkeley Social Welfare alumna, LePak was welcomed by UC Berkeley students, faculty and community mentors to share her accomplishments and research thus far as a PhD candidate at the University of Washington. LePak's talk emphasized a community-based model of healing and building resilience amidst the impacts of intergenerational trauma. “When we engage in our cultural activities, we have a stronger sense of identity. When we don’t, we have less so," she remarked. "I think we see that often in the Bay Area Indian community. When people start engaging with the local community after having been in treatment for substance abuse, for example, they’re often able to remain abstinent from substance abuse. Again, nothing I’m really saying is earth-shattering to Native people, but out there in the research world, people don’t talk about it like this. They talk about this individual-level trait usually, and they’re just now starting to talk about different forms of resilience.”
The Indigenous Social Welfare Caucus was formed based on discussions between first-year social welfare Indigenous students Shantelle Despabiladeras, Bonnie Lockhart, Makena Silva, Christina Tlatilpa and Amanda Whitecrane on how they could shape their own experiences and the experiences of others at UC Berkeley by supporting each other; making an impact in supporting Indigenous students and issues within the School of Social Welfare; being allies to other students on campus; and staying connected with community activism through meaningful collaboration.
Words of Jessica Elm LePak encompass the heartbeat of the community healing that is possible through the Indigenous Social Welfare Caucus: "Some of us are maybe a little bit more advanced in the healing process, but you know I think it's kind of important to rely on other people for their wisdom too." --Courtesy of the Indigenous Social Welfare Caucus