Honoring Sand Creek, Healing from Legacies of Historical Trauma

Ramona Beltrán, PhD (University of Washington), is assistant professor in the DU Graduate School of Social Work, whose scholarship focuses on the intersections of historical trauma, embodiment, and environmental/social determinants of health as they affect health and risk behaviors in indigenous communities.

She is particularly interested in centering cultural protective factors, strengths and resiliencies in indigenous populations as they work to interrupt the intergenerational transmission of historical trauma. She uses decolonizing methodologies with an emphasis on qualitative methods that incorporate innovative geo-spatial photographic technologies and digital storytelling to support community-based research.

Beltrán believes narrative is both a powerful clinical practice and research method that helps individuals, families and communities articulate the conditions of their own existence, as well as solutions to their most pressing issues.

With more than 15 years of experience using arts, dance and movement, digital media, and narrative with Latino and indigenous communities, Beltrán also has worked on numerous research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health that examine health, mental health and substance abuse disparities in these same communities. Her intellectual contributions can be found in invited chapters in edited books, journal articles and news media, as well as national and international conferences and symposia.

Beltrán is passionate about teaching and believes that social work classrooms can be uniquely transformative spaces in which students learn to bridge theory and practice through embodied and experiential learning. Whether in the classroom, in community-based research or through community activism, Beltrán believes that social work practice and scholarship have the capacity to mobilize in co-authoring new stories of healing and equity as we strive toward a socially just society.

Dr Beltrán will be joined by Mr Otto Braided Hair, Northern Cheyenne, and Sand Creek survivor descendent.

Above text borrowed from: http://www.du.edu/cme/programs-services/summit/speakers.html.


Dr. Beltran summarizes her talk by  saying “Anchored in honoring the history of the Sand Creek Massacre and the resilience of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, the presentation explored the definition and meaning of historical trauma as well as the cumulative and ongoing experiences compounding its effects and outcomes in indigenous communities. Acknowledging the interconnectedness of people, time, place, and history, the presentation concluded by illuminating the need to heal from historically situated legacies of trauma within and across all communities” (Dr. Ramona Beltran, May 13, 2014).

Dr. Beltran also  shares “[She] was honored to share the presentation with Otto Braided hair, Northern Cheyenne Tribal Member and Sand Creek Descendant, and Coordinator of the San Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run and Walk” (Dr. Ramona Beltran, May 13, 2014).



Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site GSSW visit

GSSW’s Historical Trauma and Healing class recently took a field trip to the San Creek Massacre Memorial Site on Wednesday, May 14.

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The tour of the site was led by Jeff Campbell with the National Park Service, Sand Creek National Historical Site.

GSSW Deans and Directors Series: Emil M. Sunley – 3rd GSSW Director/1st Dean



3rd GSSW Director/Dean


Dean Emeritus

NASW Foundation Social Work Pioneer

Emil M. Sunley picture

Following college, Sunley worked at the United Charities of St. Paul, MN, and eventually was promoted to Assistant Secretary. Later, he was appointed to a teaching position with the Department of Social Administration, State University of Iowa while also earning his MSW. Convinced of the need for doctorates in a growing profession, which then had only a handful, he entered the doctoral program of the School of Social Service Administration of the University of Chicago, completing his Ph.D. in 1938. Prior to coming to GSSW, he headed social work departments at West Virginia University and University of Louisville.

Was the first head of social work at DU to be appointed Dean. Dramatically increased the size of the student body and faculty. Sunley secured Templin Hall as GSSW’s home in 1954. When GSSW outgrew Templin, he worked to raise funds for its eventual new home in Spruce Hall. A tireless fund-raiser, he obtained many federal training and research grants for GSSW. During his tenure, GSSW achieved what only 4 other schools of social work had accomplished: accreditation of course sequences in psychiatric social work, group work, school social work, and medical social work. Sunley created a pre-professional undergraduate social welfare program in 1948, and the doctoral program in social work in 1968. Active in national, regional, and local social welfare organizations. Served on CSWE national committees. Suffered a severe heart attack in 1960, but was back to work within two months. At the time of his retirement, was the longest serving dean of social work in the country.

The DEAN EMIL M. SUNLEY MERIT AWARD is given by the Dean, in consultation with the faculty, to a June MSW graduate in recognition of meritorious service to the School or to the profession of social work.

Sunley group picture

Professor Dorothea Spellmann described Dean Sunley as follows:

“A quick smile, a Southern drawl, anything but a Southern pace in walking, in the office in the morning before everyone else. Straight leveling, tough argument, hard words, even disagreements. Then, the next morning: the quick smile greeting, and – ‘I’ve been thinking it over and…. Faculty members could count on him for an honest exchange, given and received, and returned in a spirit of respect, with humor.”

MSW students release a book with Assitant Professor Ramona Beltran: Entitled J(our)ney: Genpowerment

MSW Students Publish Empowerment Anthology

MSW students in Assistant Professor Ramona Beltrán’s winter quarter course, “Empowerment Practice with Diverse Communities,” didn’t just read books to complete their assignments. They wrote one themselves. Now their book is attracting national attention as a resource for students in other universities’ social work programs.

Entitled J(our)ney: Genpowerment, the book is a community-based anthology that includes poetry, prose, fiction, non-fiction, digital photography, drawings and sketches representing student and student-curated reflections on power, privilege, oppression and the meaning of empowerment.

“The book is an example of using narrative techniques to engage critical and creative consciousness for social change,” Beltrán explains. Within days of its publication, social work professors from three universities expressed interest in incorporating the anthology into their syllabi.

Beltrán’s MSW course explores empowerment practice and community organizing as social work intervention methods. Students examine the challenges and promises of community practice in today’s world and with diverse groups, while learning community organizing techniques and community capacity-building models. Other topics include critical, progressive and liberatory approaches to community practice, narrative and creative expression practice skills, ethical issues in community practice, and social work for social justice.

J(our)ney: Genpowerment is available for purchase online at Createspace and Amazon. All proceeds will be donated to Cafe Cultura, a Denver nonprofit organization that promotes unity among Indigenous peoples through creative expression, and to the As/Us Reach the Rez Campaign, which provides outreach to youth and community by sending copies of an indigenous women’s literary journal to schools, libraries, community centers and reservations.

– Text borrowed from: http://www.du.edu/socialwork/gsswnews/2014/14-4-student-anthology.html J(our)ney Genpowerment book releaseAuthors of the anthology: Keighley Bailey, Kara Brehm, Haley Couch, Lindsay Ganassa, Alice Hacker, Theresa Hayes, Michelle Johnston, Kassondra Long, Alison McCarthy, Emily Melby, Elizabeth Murphy, Shayna Patron (with guest authors Samantha Gault & Michelle Neuman), Jame Rud, Cassidy Sauter, Jill Schmidrt, Emily Sumner, Martiza Torres, Mallory Webb, Shelly Woodson, Benjamin Worrall, Annie Yterrock

Photos from the book signing are below:

photo 1photo 3photo 4Front Row (Left to Right): Dr. Ramona Beltran, Jamie Rud, Shelly Woodson, Keighley Bailey, Alison McCarthy, Haley Couch

Back Row (Left to Right): Kara Brehm, Jill Schmidt, Christine Jarlstrom, Theresa Hayes, Cassidy Sauter, Benjamin Worrall, Annie Yterrock

photo 5

Front Row (Left to Right): Dr. Ramona Beltran, Jamie Rud, Shelly Woodson, Keighley Bailey, Alison McCarthy, Haley Couch

Back Row (Left to Right): Kara Brehm, Jill Schmidt, Christine Jarlstrom, Theresa Hayes, Cassidy Sauter, Benjamin Worrall, Annie Yterrock

Photos courtesy of: Dr. Ramona Beltran.