Cultural Discontinuity Harms Native Youth

Scholars claim that American Indian children experience bullying at significantly higher rates when compared to other youth (Carlyle & Steinman, 2007; Melander, Sittner Hartshorn, & Whitbeck, 2013). Scholars note that as a result of oppression and its ensuing influences on the internalized process of oppression, Indigenous people suffer a wound to their soul. Mistakenly, American Indian caregivers get trapped into believing that their children escape oppression and the insidious effects of internalized oppression—but Native children do suffer the ill effects of internalizing oppression; and as a result of lacking the outlets or processes to overcome the difficulties associated with internalizing oppression they struggle even more than adults resulting in cultural discontinuity (Gonzales, Simard, Baker-Demaray, & Iron Eyes in Davis, 2013). Scholars indicate that cultural discontinuity is “the violence in all forms: lateral violence, sexual violence, physical violence, emotional or character assassination, bullying, intimidating, and so on” (Gonzales, Simard, Baker-Demaray, & Iron Eyes in Davis, p. 46, 2013).

Children that encounter bullying, experience a diminished self-worth (Perren, Ettakal, & Ladd, 2013), damaged self-esteem (McDougall and Vaillancourt, 2015) and oftentimes experience suicidal ideation (Schreier et al., 2009; Gini & Espelage, 2014; Arango, Opperman, Gipson, & King, 2016; Gunn, & Goldstein, 2017). Youth suicide is one of the most daunting crisis facing American Indian communities (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013; Wexler et al., 2015), that are often located in rural areas that lack culturally sensitive intervention services (Leavitt et al., 2018).

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ and parents’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed. IINII has extensive experience in building and using an Indigenous research paradigm.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally sustaining practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic youth-centered environment that honors the unique values of your students and parents, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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