Obituary: Dr. Wynne DuBray, 82, advocated multicultural awareness in psychotherapy

05/07/2014 5:49 PM

05/07/2014 5:50 PM

Dr. Wynne DuBray, a retired Sacramento State professor who advocated for American Indians and multicultural perspectives in social work and psychotherapy, died April 28 at 82.

She was sitting in her Arden Arcade area home after working in the garden when her heart failed, her son Les Hanson said.

After putting her husband through optometry school, Dr. DuBray was a homemaker in her 40s by the time she embarked on a career in academia. She was inspired by a wave of liberated women entering college, and she connected as a Sioux Indian with American Indian activism on campuses in the 1970s.

She earned a master of social work degree from California State University, San Francisco, and a doctorate in education and counseling psychology from University of San Francisco. She taught at CSU San Francisco and UC Berkeley and was an administrator for the Indian Health Service in Sacramento before joining the faculty in the division of social work at California State University, Sacramento, in 1990.

Dr. DuBray, who also had a private practice, devoted her work to bridging barriers between traditional psychotherapy – a field of mostly white professionals with theories that originated in Europe – and racial, ethnic and cultural minorities. In classrooms and textbooks, she promoted diversity in counseling professions and advocated ways to overcome differences in order to solve common human conditions.

In 1993, she told The Sacramento Bee that many American Indians “are coming from a different value system” – including communicating with one’s ancestors, she said. So if a patient reports that he hears voices and sees ghosts, she asked, is he schizophrenic – or is he in touch with centuries of spiritual beliefs?

To make a proper diagnosis, she said, a therapist would need to know about Indian beliefs, including specific tribal symbols.

Born April 22, 1932, Dr. DuBray was the ninth of 10 children raised by Lakota Sioux parents who farmed and raised cattle on the extended Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

She married Kenneth J. Hanson, lived in South Dakota and Alaska while her husband served in the Army during the Korean War and worked as waitress to help put him through optometry school in Tennessee. After moving to California and settling in Antioch in the 1960s, she worked in accounting and raised three children before becoming the first in her family to go to college.

“Her mother had gone to Carlisle, a famous Indian boarding school in Pennsylvania where Jim Thorpe went,” Les Hanson said. “That instilled in her children the desire for education.”

Dr. DuBray encouraged young American Indians to go to college and wrote grant requests for clinical social work programs to serve multicultural communities. She wrote a memoir, “Journey of a Lakota Elder,” to inspire women of color seeking careers in higher education, and she served on the editorial board of the Journal of Multicultural Social Work.

Dr. DuBray, who was divorced, was predeceased by her daughter Yvonne Hanson in 1990. In addition to her son Les, she is survived by another son, David Hanson; three grandchildren; and her companion, Joseph Lipoma.

A private memorial is planned. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Francis Indian School, P.O. Box 379, St. Francis, SD 57572.

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