WHO IS THE
TRADITIONAL NATIVE AMERICAN (TNA) STUDENT ?
It would be foolish, and insensitive,
and shortsighted to characterize individuals through general group definitions.
The following discussion is not intended to limit your interpretation of what
your students are like. Rather, it is intended to serve as a door into greater
understanding and further discussion. To the extent that they are helpful, the following comments are suggested here
as a background for later discussion on teaching approaches and lesson plans,
following this section.
The following list is taken from
The article begins by giving
examples of TNA who are different from each other, depending on their
relationship to their own and their new culture.
"There are varying
degrees of acculturation of Native Americans. Characteristics of a
traditional Native American could be used for the understanding of varying
degrees of acculturation. At the opposite end would be an individual who
is assimilated and who knows the English language but does not speak his
Native language. In between a traditional and assimilated individual would
be the varying degrees of acculturation."
[The traditional Native American
Speaks Native language
Understands tribal customs/traditions
Participates in tribal
Acts in appropriate ways at
Practices traditional spirituality
Feels emotionally connected to tribe (s)
Socializes with other Native American people
Chooses to live in Indian communities
May grow crops or have a farm
Immediate and extended family very important
Other characteristics/definitions are discussed at http://www.literacynet.org/lp/namericans/attitudes.html.
Following is the introductory paragraph from that page to entice you to visit
"Through personal experience and
observation, Mr. Wilson Gorman, an adult educator from the Navajo Nation, has
developed a model for understanding Navajo attitudes. This model is to be
considered a "work in progress" serving both to inform instructors
and students and stimulate discussions about Navajo attitudes. He has created
five categories of Navajo attitudes and beliefs: Staying, Optimists,
Undecided, Pessimists, and Leaving."
Dr. Bob Rhodes comments that most
Native American students are not traditional, even those living on the
reservations. They don't have all the characteristics mentioned above.
They fall in between cultures--some tradition, some acculturation. They
do not have much self identity. They see themselves as
"Indians" or as members of a tribe, but they don't quite know what
Do the items mentioned
match your experience working with TNA students?
What additional observations would you make from your experience?
Read the articles cited
above. How accurate do you think are the comments?
Comment on how you might
feel about being defined by someone else.
Make a list of some
characteristics of the traditional group that defines you.
Compare items on your list to those discussed above. What more would
you like to know about your student based on what you would like someone
to know about you if they were to teach you.
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