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Native American Culture

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Native Americans

Teresa Ross



Davinda Perry PhD


The purpose of this research is to explain information about the Native American Culture. In this paper the history of Native Americans will be assessed and also the parenting and childrearing practices. Research will explain how Native Americans provide care to the oldest of the tribe, the cultural values, beliefs, and mental health status. Team C, through this paper will explain the characteristics of Native Americans and how the characteristics influence the groups experience as a subculture in American society. The cultural aspects of Native Americans and how this applies to the traditional psychological theory with the implications of the group are addressed by the team.

Native Americans

The Native American culture has a foundation built on tradition, lore, and primarily matriarchal. The Native Americans, at one time could adapt well to the changes around them; however, with the invasion of Europeans, adaptation was more slowly. Many negative influences passed from the European culture have negatively re-worked the original Native American culture. These negatives include alcohol and drug abuse causing poverty, mental health problems, and poor parenting. Through this paper Team C will explore and explain the Native American history, culture, values, and mental health disparities, care of the elderly care, cultural characteristics, and parenting practices.


According to the website native net (2010), the Native American culture has grown over thousands of years. The Native American culture revolves around visible features of life with a base on earth and nature. Native Americans use animals for clothing and food but worship the animal spirits as gods. Animals, for food, are also for hides (clothing), skin (drums), and bones (weapons and tools). Native Americans believe everyone has the spirit of a certain animal and when he or she dies his or her spirit will live on inside an animal. The Native American culture is one of many tribes with every tribe possessing lore and beliefs specific to that tribe. Native Americans lost land and life when the European settlers came to the America. After time the U.S. government formed reservations meant to house Native Americans.

Parenting and Child Rearing Practices

Native American family life is much different from many other cultures. Traditionally Native American parents use positive reinforcement with the absence of corporal punishment, to teach tribal children (Illick, 2002). Native Americans view parenting and children rearing as a community venture; although the parents have the final say community members may step in as a support system. The aspects of tribal beliefs, spirituality, and culture came from parents first with support by the community. According to tribal laws, children are in debt to parents, and the debt is paid with respect (Illick, 2002).

Today many Native Americans live on reservations that have been his or land for many years. This factor allows the Native Americans to stay close to their families because of the accessibility provided that they live in such close vicinity. The reservation style of living contributes in a large part of negative issues in Native American child rearing. These negative issues concerning Native American parenting approaches are often points of research. One issue is the risk of maternal drinking and substance abuse and how these affect children. Another negative issue in studies is maternal behaviors, primarily excess gambling, and the influence on the child.

Elder Care

One of the fastest growing sectors of the population in the United States is that of the elderly in Native American tribes, which has grown drastically since 1970 (Jervis, Boland & Fickenscher, 2010). Native American cultures revere the elderly of the tribe, especially the women (Byers, 2010).

Historically women care for those around them. Holding true to this tradition, family members provide the role of caregiver. Previous research suggests the caregiver experience is a negative one. A study conducted on a northern plains reservation provided contradictory data, showing more positive attitudes toward caregivers of elderly family members (Jervis, Boland & Fickenscher, 2010). Researchers attribute this significant difference to multiple factors. First, the respect of the position of elder, second, multiple caregivers care for each elder, and finally the caregivers feel as though they are reciprocating for care received by the elder previously (Jervis, Boland & Fickenscher, 2010)

Cultural Values and Beliefs

Native American life is full of history and culture. In North America, Native American culture runs deep with values and legacies (Fleming, 2006). Native American tribes have different traditions in the sense of culture along with different values that define each tribe (Fleming, 2006). The values within each tribe culminate a tribal member's point of view on life (Fleming, 2006). For example some tribes believe that upon death the spirit travels through the mouth and into a new spirit or being. Animal rituals are representative of many tribes (Fleming, 2006). The animal rituals are usually in the form of a bird or different land animals (Fleming, 2006). For example the wolf and eagle are two valuable animals that represent tribal life. Native American life is shown through by artwork and cultural rituals (Miller, 2010).

The Native American pow-wow (council or meeting) represents values and beliefs spiritually (Fleming, 2006). The Native American traditions have been lost through time but the spirit of defining image holds to reality in the lives of Native Americans (Miller, 2010).

Mental Health Status and Disparities

Native Americans represent an economically disadvantaged and underserved group. Native Americans have the lowest average income, educational, and standard of living (Levitan & Johnston, 2002, p. 430). The Surgeon attributes this representation to the high rate of homelessness, incarceration, stress, and trauma among the Native American population (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2003, p. 1). The Surgeon General indicates that the mental health system is ill-equipped because of budget constraints and personnel problems



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