Beltrán, R., & Begun, S. (2014). ‘It is Medicine’: Narratives of Healing from the Aotearoa Digital Storytelling as Indigenous Media Project (ADSIMP). Psychology and Developing Societies26(2), 155–179. 


Using an Indigenous methodological approach to research, this article explores lived experience narratives from Māori university students, faculty and staff who participated in a community-based digital storytelling (DS) workshop in Aotearoa. Digital storytelling is known to positively transform the experiences of historically ongoing traumas in Indigenous communities. A primary goal of this article is raise awareness to the use of narrative and digital storytelling as a healing, protective tool to reduce the negative impact that historical trauma (HT) has on the Indigenous community. It is also essential to use this tool to mitigate contemporary challenges faced by Indigenous communities. 


  • Historical trauma results from populations experiencing harmful events and adversities that have long-lasting negative effects, transferring to ongoing generations 
  • Trauma can occur in groups of people and the onset can be a result of current traumatic events 
  • The Indigenous community has faced many tragic events in the past but are still most vulnerable to experiencing trauma from having their resources taken away from them, experiencing forced removals from their lands, experiencing inequitable treatment in matters such as housing, employment, educationbeing targeted from the police, ongoing violence against women, and being susceptible to racial discrimination and microaggressions.  
  • Historical trauma is also known to lead to anxiety, depression, substance use, post-traumatic stress, and family dysfunction.  
  • The Maori population are more likely to experience intergenerational trauma and have a higher chance of developing challenges related to their health and mental health issues.  


  • ‘The goal was to be engaged within the Indigenous culture by creating relationships and upholding the traditional values of the community.  
  •  The researchers were committed to developing transparent, reciprocal and loving community relationships that involved sharing meals in community member homes, visiting sacred lands and sharing language, teachings and customs. 
  • This process allowed recruitment to proceed smoothly as community members acknowledged and appreciated the effort the researchers made to create relationships  


  • To participate in the study, participants were required to have a Maori cultural background, be available for a workshop lasting 4 days and had to be over 18 years old 
  • A total of six participants (one man and five women) were included in the sample and were a combination of faculty, staff and students  
  • All participants were required to take part of three stages in the study: a) an informative workshop discussing historical trauma in the Maori community b) a 4day digital story workshop and c) post-interviews asking about the experience of the workshops. 
  • The post-workshop interviews asked participants to discuss their experience of participating in the digital story workshops, how they felt the workshops went and how their understanding of digital story telling evolved.                                                          

Discussion and findings  

  • Several participants shared similar, positive experiences of how digital story telling helped them cope with historical trauma.  
  • Some participants discussed the importance of language in understanding historical trauma and feeling validated when sharing their experiences.  
  • Participants shared that a huge part of their healing derived from speaking up and feeling accepted, speaking about the trauma allowed them to feel alleviated from the pain of holding it in.  
  • The act of sharing their stories with people who have the same cultural understandings and have faced similar challenges allowed them to feel safe and feel connected to others.  


  • The utilization of a small sample may not be representative of the entire Maori population. 
  • The results were derived from a one-time workshop that can only measure experiences in a singular implementation.  
  • No measurement of actual educational or health outcomes could reliably be drawn following the study 
  • Since one of the researchers identifies as Indigenous, social desirability may have played a role in how participants responded, sharing the same cultural ethnicity could have influenced their responses.  


  • Digital story telling can uplift the strengths that the Indigenous community has ancan function as a coping mechanism for historical trauma. 
  • It can improve the way that service providers work with Indigenous populations.