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Understanding Culture to Heal Historical Trauma (www.iinii.org)

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

Youth suicide is one of the principal public health concerns for American Indian communities and is one of the leading causes of death among American Indian children (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013). The majority of Alaska Natives and American Indians reside in rural areas that suffer from a lack of culturally competent youth services (Leavitt et al., 2018). The authors justify the potential significance of school-based programming stating, “The high rate of suicides among native youths highlights the need for early prevention. School-based programs can reach a large number of native youths at high risk and could increase the availability of services for American Indians in isolated nonmetropolitan areas” (p. 239).


Some studies contend that traditional cultural practices that use cultural values to heal intergenerational trauma may help American Indian students reduce suicidal thoughts (Hill 2009; Yurkovich, Hopkins, & Rieke, 2012), and suicidal ideation may be reduced by participating in spiritual activities (Garroutte et al., 2003). Wexler et al., (2016) claim that American Indians suffer from lack of culturally appropriate mental-health interventions, and argue for the development of partnerships stating “Collaborations between researchers and Indigenous communities potentially allow for the research itself to be an emancipatory process that enables community members to identify and frame issues important to their community and to develop solutions that reflect community priorities” (p. 894).


Gay (2001) argues that culturally responsive teaching is connecting students' cultural knowledge, prior experiences, frames of reference and performance styles to academic knowledge to make learning more personalized. The author argues "the education of racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse students should connect in-school learning to out-of-school-living; promote educational equity and excellence; create community among individuals and develop students' efficacy and empowerment" (2013, p.49).


Ladson-Billings (2014), the pioneer of culturally responsive pedagogy, claims that the foundation of culturally responsive instruction rests in the teachers' ability to blend the art of teaching with an understanding of culture. Gay claims that the guiding principles of culturally responsive teaching are profoundly different from traditional educational programs. She further states, "It is an equal educational opportunity initiative that accepts differences among ethnic groups, individuals, and cultures as a normative to the human condition and valuable to societal and personal development" (Gay, 2013, p.50). The experienced researchers at iinii can help transform your school or youth organization into a culturally responsive learning environment that honors the individual culture of your youth.



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