Understanding Historical Trauma Key to Strengthening Community

We know the way we see and experience the world around us is influenced by many factors – including our culture, how we were raised, and the unique challenges we have overcome along the way. An emerging field of research – Epigenetics – adds another layer of awareness to help us better understand how the experiences of previous generations impact us and who we are today.  Understanding the impact of Historical Trauma and Epigenetics from the American Indian perspective is a necessary step toward building more equitable and inclusive communities in Minnesota and beyond.

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The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being. The study is a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente's Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego.

More than 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) members undergoing a comprehensive physical examination chose to provide detailed information about their childhood experience of abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction.

The ACE Study findings suggest that certain negative experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States, including heart disease, depression, intimate partner violence and substance abuse.

These findings represent a paradigm shift in human understanding of the origins of physical, social, mental, and societal health and well-being. We now know that leading causes of disease and disability, learning and productivity problems, and early death have their roots in the cumulative neurodevelopmental impacts of ACEs.



Minnesota was the 18th State to add the ACE questionnaire to their Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey (BRFSS) in 2011. The Executive Summary of the findings is at can be found HERE.

Minnesota students were also asked about childhood adversity as part of the Minnesota Student Survey. You can find more information HERE.



The Original ACE Study

Philadelphia Urban ACE Study

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Collection on ACEs

Harvard Center for the Developing Child

Resilience and Healing Resources