Dr. Ruby Gibson and Somatic Archaeology©: An Innovative Program to Advance Transgenerational Well-Being


( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) Well-Being and Equity (WE) In The World Spotlights Solutions To Break Cycles of Trauma and Advance Transgenerational Well-Being

ENSPIRE Contributor: Daniel Garritson

How do you help someone heal from a traumatic experience, be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual abuse? Well-Being and Equity (WE) in the World, a diverse team of well-being and equity architects, is presenting solutions to advance transgenerational well-being by exploring Native American practices to break the cycle of trauma. To help individuals break the cycle of trauma, WE in the World’s partner organization Freedom Lodge, which is led by Executive Director Dr. Ruby Gibson, has developed an innovative program called Somatic Archaeology© to resolve underlying issues about trauma.

Somatic Archaeology© centers on “unearthing in the human body those remains and artifacts of our familial, ancestral, and spiritual lineage to uncover our myths and remember our stories for personal and planetary evolution.” (Source: Freedom Lodge and The Black Hills Historical Trauma and Research & Recovery Center). There are five steps in Somatic Archaeology©: 

1) I Notice

2) I Sense

3) I Feel

4) I Interpret 

5) I Reconcile

Somatic Archaeology© has been used primarily and successfully in Native American communities. By helping individuals heal, reclaim their cultural identity, break the cycle of trauma and addiction, and create post-traumatic resilience and growth, Somatic Archaeology© has helped create Native Wellness across the U.S. and Canada. At ENSPIRE, we spoke with Dr. Ruby Gibson about her Somatic Archeology program and her career.

Has it ever been difficult to make your voice heard in medical circles, considering the nontraditional nature of your work?

It depends on the doctor; some are open but many don’t want to discuss it. Liability is a big risk for medical establishments, and so most close their doors to alternative medicines, unless the modality, such as Acupuncture, is rigorously researched. Freedom Lodge hired an Indigenous Research and Evaluation group four years ago to evaluate/research our HTMC™ program. Our results have been compelling, insightful, and positive. We do not compete with Western Medicine because the services Freedom Lodge provides are much different than what Western medicine provides. So the answer to your question is ‘No, it has not been difficult for us as of yet.’

Have you always felt that the lens of historical somatic imprinting was lacking in therapeutic practices, or was it a conclusion you came to later in life?

As an early trailblazer for historical trauma, I felt as if our therapeutic communities overlooked generational trauma and healing. When we started Freedom Lodge in Rapid City, I traveled around the state to provide information on Historical Trauma to Tribal citizens, but few people knew the term or what it meant. We continue our educational outreach and advocacy work with Tribes across the US, and Indigenous Peoples across the world.

Could you share with us some of the processes you went through when developing your Somatic Archeology© process?

Sure. When I was 13 years old, I knew I was destined to be a healer. My life has led me down a long, rocky road with many transformative healing experiences from around the world. Indigenous ceremonies, honoring Mother Earth, positions of leadership, medicine wheel studies, powerful teachers, such as Frank Fools Crow, our Lakota ceremonies/prayers, and birthing 3 amazing children have ripened me and my work! I became a licensed massage therapist at 20 years old, and The 5 Steps of Somatic Archaeology© emerged during sessions with my clients. So I decided to write it all down in a book, My Body, My Earth, The Practice of Somatic Archaeology (2008).

The concept of generational trauma has recently become more well-known and widely accepted, with books like “The Body Keeps the Score” by Besser van der Kolk being published. Does this seem like a promising evolution in the medical/mental health fields to you?

Absolutely. The medical field is evolving. Many people are now talking more about somatic healing and providing spiritual teachings/counseling that address the topic of generational trauma, but rarely do those people know how to heal generational or historical trauma. This is one way in which Somatic Archaeology© stands out – it relieves a person from historical amnesia. Imagine all the changes, stressors, losses, and suffering our ancestors endured without hope of healing themselves or their culture.

Consider that our bodies are walking libraries full of conscious, subconscious, and unconscious memories. The genocidal acts of the colonizer can be too much pain to bear, so humans push it down so they don’t have to remember. The associated amnesia begins to manifest, first in that person’s body, and subsequently in the children, grandchildren, etc. for seven generations. When we choose to unlock those memories, we heal, and this reconciliation affects those before us and those yet to come.

How does it feel to be so ahead of the game, having been working in Historical Trauma reconciliation for 35+ years?

Excellent, and honored that I was chosen to be the woman to bring this amazing work to our communities! Somatic Archaeology© is for the People and due to our generous funders, we can provide our education and advocacy to Tribal Members for no fee.

Is your Somatic Archeology© process, like your Historical Trauma Master Class (HTMC™), aimed specifically toward members of Indigenous American tribes, or is it something that anyone can take wisdom from?

Yes, currently we are offering HTMC™ to Tribal Members only. This year we are also offering a Somatic Archaeology© Master Class (SAMC©) which is open to all people who are trained therapists. SAMC© begins this fall. This body of work can benefit all human beings.

Dr. Gibson’s groundbreaking techniques have been helping Indigenous Americans to heal from generational trauma for years. Only recently has the mental health field caught up to her innovations. While Historical Trauma Master Class™ is exclusive to Tribal Members, her Somatic Archeology© program is beneficial to all people. You can find information on her programs on her website.

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