Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Clinical Psychology

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Gyda Swaney

Commitee Members

Annie Belcourt, Duncan Campbell


Native Americans, Historical Trauma, Historical Loss, Social Support, Resilience, Depression


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Community Psychology | Multicultural Psychology


Colonization, genocide, boarding schools, and relocation programs have created complex psychological issues for Native American people. Although these events are rooted in the past, the resulting political, social, and economic situations continue to play a role in influencing the mental health of Native Americans. There are considerations to be given to social support as a protective factor that provides resiliency for Native Americans. Historical trauma (as measured by the Historical Loss Scale, HLS), social support (as measured by the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, MSPSS), depression (as measured by the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, CES-D) and resilience (as measured by the Positive Affect factor of the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, CES-D) were investigated to determine their relationships. Hierarchical multiple regressions were used to examine historical loss and social support as predictors of depressive symptoms and resilience. The participants were 160 Native American older adults and elderly from a Northern Plains Reservation in the United States. The results indicated that participants think about historical losses frequently, feel socially supported, are generally not depressed, and are feeling positive frequently. The data also revealed the relationship between Historical Loss and depression to be approaching significance, suggesting that with more power, a significant relationship could be found. When examining depression as an outcome of historical loss and social support, only MSPSS predicted CES-D scores, F(6,109) = 5.09, p < .001, adjusted R2 = .18. When examining positive affect as an outcome of historical loss and social support, only MSPSS scores predicted positive affect scores, F(3,119) = 3.26, p < .05, adjusted R2 = .16. Social support emerged as a protective factor against depression and as a source of resilience. Although the data did not show a relationship between historical loss and social support, the data suggests that social practices related to historical loss decrease symptoms of depression and also increase positive affect. The participants are thinking about losses on average between “monthly” and “yearly or only at special times.” However, almost half of the participants (n = 77, 48.1%) thought about at least one element of historical loss “daily,” or “several times a day.” Participants appear to be effectively coping with these thoughts, as indicated by CES-D mean scores of 11.03, and Positive Affect factor mean scores of 3.78. Risk factors for the development of depression appear to include thinking about historical loss frequently, and lower levels social support. Future research could continue to explore how specific cultural practices, values, and attributes enable these older adults and elderly Native Americans to cope with historical loss and remain positive.



© Copyright 2014 Matthew Croxton