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American Indian Executions in Historical Context, Research Paper Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1164

Research Paper

Primary Characteristics

For Native Americans, religious thoughts and actions are the foundation of every aspect of their lives. Native Americans view spirituality as building block of life. Through traditional Indian life teachings, work is very important and has a specific time to be completed. Native Americans have little value for material things and do not work to accumulate materialist belongings. Within the Native American culture, all aspects of life are viewed as interconnected and time has very little value. Native Americans believe that everything happens at a designated time and one should never do anything to alter time or what is destined to happened. Nature is viewed as a holistic part of their thinking. Yet, Native Americans have become victims of acculturation. Consequently, their cultural beliefs have been adapted to fit their surroundings.  Family and the elders are very important to the Native American culture (Red Horse, 1980). For example,

“Native American Indian elderly come from at least 569 federally recognized tribes. Each tribe has its own unique culture, language, beliefs and customs. Despite these differences, there is general agreement that Native Indian elders are honored and respected by their families and communities, and they are considered to be the keepers of their tribes’ language and heritage.”(Red Horse, 1980).

Native Americans have a distinguished culture. In most of American culture, people seek ways to have their older family members taken care of by facilities. Yet, in the Native American culture, they seek to ensure that the elders are able to remain at home with their families. For Native Americans, taking care of their aging population is a part of an ancient custom(Baker, 2007).

Sub-Culture

The United States is a complex society categorized by many subcultures.  Subcultures have characteristics of the main cultures they resemble.  Subcultures are based upon the geographic region in which they exist, the social class, and economic status. Native Americans have some cultural beliefs that are considered superstitious.  Within a dominant culture, these superstitious would not be accepted, but within a subculture they are the norm. Within large cultures like the United States, often the judicial system reflects that of the dominant group. As a result, the subcultures feel they are being treated unfairly when they are held to laws that they do not value or that go against their religious beliefs (Baker, 2007).  According to David Baker,

“The incarceration rate of Native Americans is 38 percent higher than the national rate. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights attributes this higher rate to differential treatment by the criminal justice system, lack of access to adequate counsel and racial profiling. Law enforcement agents arrest American Indians and Alaskan Natives at twice the rate of the greater U.S. population for violent and property crimes. On average, American Indians receive longer sentences than non-Indians for crimes. They also tend to serve longer time in prison for their sentences than non-Native Americans. The suicide rate is higher among American native inmates incarcerated in jails than non-Indians. Within the prison system, Native Americans are often subject to abuse when attempting to identify with native cultures through the wearing of head-bands, using native languages, maintaining long-braided hair, listening to native music, and securing culturally-related educational material”(Baker, 2007).

This fact only further breaks down the family unit within the Native American culture.

Historical Trauma Theory

The Historical Trauma Theory was designed to describe the problems that Native Americans are currently facing within their families (Whitbeck, 2004). Native Americans are facing issues with substance abuse, depression, parenting issues, and unemployment (Gone, 2009). As compared with other non-Native American adults, Native Americans are more likely to suffer from mental health issues. The Historical Trauma is composed of three phases: “The first phase entails the dominant culture perpetrating mass traumas on a population, resulting in cultural, familial, societal and economic devastation for the population. The second phase occurs when the original generation of the population responds to the trauma showing biological, societal and psychological symptoms. The final phase is when the initial responses to trauma are conveyed to successive generations through environmental and psychological factors, and prejudice and discrimination. Based on the theory, Native Americans were subjected to traumas that are defined in specific historical losses of population, land, family and culture. These traumas resulted in historical loss symptoms related to social-environmental and psychological functioning that continue today” (Whitbeck, 2004). Consequently, due to these issues many Native Americans are having difficulty with parenting their children. That is to say that Native Americans discipline their children according to tribal standards. Often these standards conflict with mainstream cultural norms.

“Native American families have also been favored targets of child welfare investigations. Before the passage of the ICWA, anywhere between 25 and 35 percent of Native American children in some states were removed from their homes and placed in non-Native American homes instead. The numbers aren’t much better post-ICWA, either. In South Dakota, Native American children still make up 61 and 68 percent of children who are taken and placed in foster care each year, even though Native Americans make up just 13 percent of the total population in that state”(Arnold, 1993).

In Native American culture, parents often do not enforce compliance of their children.

Conclusion

So many members of the Native American population still suffer from the psychological effects of Historical Trauma. This theory provides healthcare workers with a framework to issues affecting Native American people and their culture (Whitbeck, 2004). Additional research is needed to determine how to best aid Native Americans to prevent their history and culture from being devalued. The issues that Native Americans are facing as a direct result of Historical Trauma can be directly related to issues within the Native American family. The Native American culture is suffering from unresolved grief just as many African Americans are. There are several factors that must be considered when trying to understand the family structure of the Native American culture.  Gender, religion, physical limitations and socioeconomic status can have a great effect on the way one lives his/her life (Gone, 2009). With these variables in mind, a person could be a member of several subcultures within one culture. The value system that a person may have is closely linked to culture. As a result, many Native Americans are labeled as deviant when they do not conform to the cultural norms of dominating cultural groups. Consequently, it is very important to understand that all people are affected by their cultures (Red Horse, 1980).

References

Arnold, D., O’Leary, S., Wolff, L., & Acker, M. (1993). The parenting scale: A measure of dysfunctional parenting in discipline situations. Psychological Assessment, 5, 137-144.

Baker, D (2007). American Indian Executions in Historical Context. Criminal Justice Studies, 20:4, 315-373 (2007).

Gone, J. P. (2009). A community-based treatment for Native American historical trauma: Prospects for evidence-based practice. Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, 77(4), 751–762.

Red Horse, J. (1980). Family structure and value orientation in Native Americans. Social Casework, 61, 462-467

Whitbeck, L. B., Adams, G. W., Hoyt, D. R., & Chen, X. (2004). Conceptualizing and measuring historical trauma among American Indian people. American Journal of Community Psychology, 33(3-4), 119–130.

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