Posted By:
Kathy Dye
Kathy Dye
Published On: September 27th, 2022

Free event to be offered in-person, virtually

(All Lectures)

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a lecture by a molecular anthropologist on the historical traumas felt by Indigenous peoples, as part of its fall lecture series.

In his lecture, Epigenetics and Historical Trauma in Alaska Native Peoples, Ripan Malhi, Ph.D., will discuss how historical traumas experienced by Indigenous peoples of North America is correlated with health disparities, including increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse and cardiovascular disease. Massive group traumas such as genocide, loss of land and foodways and forced conversion to Western lifeways may be embodied and affect individuals, families, communities, cultures and health.

His research was co-sponsored, in part, by SHI, under a memorandum of agreement with the Carl R. Woese Institute of Genomic Biology (IGB) and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“We used a community-engaged approach, designed to create mutually beneficial partnerships, including capacity building and data care. After obtaining permission from local Indigenous governments, this study involved Indigenous participants from two regions in Alaska,” Malhi said of the project.

SHI President Rosita Worl called Malhi a person of great character and a role model for his students and younger generations.

“It has been my great honor to meet and work with Ripan Malhi, a scientist who can see and accept Indigenous People as humans, equals and colleagues and not merely as objects of study,” said Worl, who is an anthropologist. “I can say this after decades of meeting with other scientists who were not able to break out of this mold.  I have the utmost respect for this noble person who has been most respectful to myself, our staff and our tribal members who have participated in our research projects.”

The objectives were to investigate if measures of historical trauma response were associated with epigenetic patterns from Alaska Native participants. Also, the study sought to investigate if cultural participation was associated with general well-being and potentially provide a buffer to and aid in the healing process of historical trauma.

Ripan Singh Malhi, Ph.D. is a professor in the Department of Anthropology, School of Integrative Biology, American Indian Studies program and Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

He earned his Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at University of California, Davis, and then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Human Genetics, University of Michigan Medical School.

Malhi is a molecular anthropologist who collaborates with Indigenous nations to study the impacts of European colonization and the evolutionary histories of Indigenous peoples of North America. He co-founded the Summer Internship for Indigenous Peoples in Genomics (SING) Program, he currently co-directs the Center for Indigenous Science at the University of Illinois and is the executive editor of the journal Human Biology.

The lecture is scheduled for 12 pm, Tuesday, Oct. 4, in Shuká Hít within SHI’s Walter Soboleff Building, 105 S. Seward St. in Juneau. The lecture will be livestreamed and posted on SHI’s YouTube channel.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Kathy Dye, SHI Communications and Publications Deputy Director, 907.321.4636,

Caption: Photo courtesy of Ripan Malhi. Note: News outlets are welcome to use this photo for coverage of this story. For a higher-res image, contact

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