Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the UCLA American Indian Studies Center
Shalene Joseph is a 2018 UCLA graduate who earned an MA in American Indian Studies. She is A’aniiih and Athabascan, and currently works for the Native Wellness Institute (NWI) as a Project Director, where she and her team organize and promote the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health of North America’s Indigenous peoples. Shalene’s work with the NWI seeks to bring about positive changes in the lifestyles, relationships, education, and overall wellness of Native peoples through social-services training and technical assistance that are based in Native culture and values. “Mental health care and policy have often overlooked the needs of Native people. Many of the mental health care providers servicing tribal communities are non-Native and place a heavy focus on delivering Western, manualized treatment approaches. These approaches fail to account for the inherent knowledge, cultural values, and stories that are unique to each tribal community and are vital for the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health of tribal nations.”
Shalene is also a founder of the Indigenous 20 Something Project (I20SP), an effort by the NWI with an overall goal to address and halt the ongoing impacts of historical and intergenerational trauma in tribal and Indigenous communities. “My focus in education is on tribal community mental health, merging traditional values into culturally-based mental health treatment paradigms. Right now, more than ever, there is a critical need to heal our communities from the disparities that emerged as a result of centuries of colonial violence. I hope to be a small part of the journey towards healing my own community as well as others in Indian country.” She and her team travel to various tribal and urban communities where they provide training and facilitation around a multitude of topics including being trauma informed and healing-based practices.
Through I20SP, Shalene and her team have been working on an extension to their already premiered short film, Tekona. The film is a glimpse into the mental health of young Indigenous men by way of treating emotional vulnerability with insight and compassion. Faced with feelings of isolation, toxic masculinity, and stereotypes of Native people, Tekona embraces the visceral connection to his mother and the matriarchs who inspire him to be strong. Through strategic programming for tribal health and wellness and developments of Native-led media, Shalene strives to see Indigenous people rise and become the resilient people they were created to be.