Acculturation impact on Native Americans According to Doob, acculturation is the process during which individuals “concern themselves with at least some of those phenomena which result when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first-hand contact with subsequent changes in the original cultural patterns of either or both groups”(3). In other words, acculturation is a process where individuals or groups of individuals take on the customs of the greater majority while their own either become lost or is adjusted to the main stream culture. Mair describes acculturation as the “adoption of alien cultural trait” (l99). Other scholars have defined acculturation by splitting it into two separate parts, a one-way process and two-way process. Berry describes his one way process of acculturation as a loss of culture and distinctiveness of smaller, lesser-developed groups who then become absorbed into the larger society structured around the dominant group. Hence, when the acculturation is one way, only one group is changing. In the two way process, Berry depicts the process as being more emphasized on a mutual change and terms it transitional. To be concise, this paper illustrates acculturation process and shows particular influences that acculturation have on Native American culture. Because of the various views and definitions of acculturation, the line between acculturation and assimilation or culture change sometimes gets blurred. Acculturation is considered more narrow then simply a culture change and broader then assimilation. The acculturation process usually spans three generations of the typical immigrant family. The first generations of Native Americans who decide to live in American culture usually accommodate only to a point of survival and function, especially on an economic level. English is usually basic or minimal and many of the original customs and values are practiced. The second generation of Native Americans can be described as those who live in two worlds. Original customs and beliefs, including language, are expressed through the first generations. However, the second generation has a wider range of early experiences with the American “culture” and is more exposed through educational and social aspects.
Thus, the second generation of Native Americans who decided to live in the American Culture lean more in the direction of the American culture than towards original or traditional customs. By the third generations, These individuals are most often fully assimilated into the American society and there is a loose or weak connection to the original culture, of which language is the first to go (Walter 121). Epic Perspective There have been many studies done as to why acculturation occurs, all of which have resulted in factors ranging from self-esteem to political domination. However, the factors on the individual level are slightly different from those on the group level. On the individual level, acculturation has more of a psychological, internal root. As described in the process above, major changes begin to occur during the second generation leading to a complete loss of culture by the third. This can be due to what is called acculturation stress, which usually occurs, in the second generations. When children of the first generation marry, they have usually already resolved that the “handicaps” they faces as children will never confront their children will never confront their own children. This is why, quite often, second generation parents encourage their children, the third generation, to participate in American life and to freely associate with all elements in the American populations (Walters 89). The “handicaps” Walter speaks of is acculturation stress. Thus, instead of second-generation parents making an effort to keep cultural traditions and values, they, in a sense, deliberately push in the opposite directions. According to Berry, all individuals who go through the acculturation process experience acculturation stress. He found that the extent of the stress depends on the level of acculturation. One who is less acculturated will suffer greater stress and adjustment problems that one who is more acculturated. Another factor involved in acculturation on the individual level has to do with the sense to belong.
Those Native Americans who decide to live in American society want to be an American and want to achieve the American dream. Generally, many of the younger immigrants, especially among the Asian and Latino communities, aggressively strive to be an American. They are eager to learn English, get a job, and often strive to pick up the U.S. cultural habits and customs. Self-esteem plays mostly into their aspect of acculturation. Individuals are not happy with who or what they are and basically, strive to be someone else. When immigrants come to America, they are looking to start a whole new life, in all aspects and sense of the word (Hing 19). Ethic Perspective On the group level, acculturation among Native Americans occurs due to external forces such as political domination and or the push of majority. Factors such as urbanization, education, and wage-employment are major influence on acculturation. The social and political features of these influences describe the change over the day-to-day behavior of groups of Native Americans (Berry 76) In a society where members of American groups possess stronger power, groups of Native Americans may be brought into or integrated into the dominant society. In such cases, groups of Native Americans unable to defend their way of life may identify with the dominant society before they are acculturated to its ways. Acculturation as a result of political domination or oppression is not rare, showing that such things as laws, codes, and rules of conduct are influential. In a study done by Berry, three generations of Native Americans were interviewed to assess the levels of acculturation. The study consisted of 90 first generation Native Americans, 80 second generation Native Americans, and 128 third generation Native Americans. The scholar wanted to see if there was any retention of traditional American Indian beliefs, practices, and customs. His results showed both the expected gradual loss of some customs and the retention of others. There was an almost complete loss of Native American language ability and changes in the area of marrying-out.
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However, the third generation of Native Americans showed to have “retained an appreciable number of beliefs and practices associates with the ore traditional American Indian culture” (Berry 11). His studies showed that while American Indians may lose certain customs and values over a period of generations, other traditional beliefs are maintained. Many believe that a cultural heritage is very much needed in a society, where most of the time, everyone is no one. Retaining one’s cultural heritage helps give an individual a sense of who and what they are. Scholars are also persuaded, however, that there can be limits on ethnic pride. An individual can decide to live in American society and practice traditional beliefs and customs but he or she must also learn to live and function in modern society. Acculturation should be there but not to a point where there is a complete loss of cultural value. It is important to know the history, language and political structure of the country one lives in. such things are no only important in day-to-day life but in the grand scheme of things as well. As diversity (including Native American representatives of the society) increases in the nation’s educational institutions, faculty and staff must become more knowledgeable about the assumptions, characteristics, and norms of a range of cultures. These challenges will occur in every dimension of school life from the curriculum to the communication that occurs in classrooms. The failure of many schools to take cross cultural communication issues into account will contribute to school related problems experienced by specific groups of children. The current crisis of Native American males in many of the nation’s schools demonstrates this point. The percentage of Native American males who graduate from high school has decreased since middle 1970’s (Berry 90). A similar trend exists for the percentage that goes on to college. In 1989, 34 percent of young Native American males attended less than four years of high school and only 11 percent attended four years of college or more.
In 1990, one out of four (23%) Native American males aged 20-29 was in the criminal system, while only 6% of white males and 10% of Hispanic males were in the system. The language and communication norms among Native American males, particularly those of lower socioeconomic status, are related, at least in part, to these problems. For instance, they will use their own jargon to mark their masculinity and rebelliousness against white standards. In order to remove the cross-cultural communication barriers, instructors should remove language, which appears to stereotype students. This can be done by avoiding racial identification, words, images, and situations that suggest that all or most members of a racial group are the same. For example, “the articulate Native American student” implies that Native American students typically have low verbal skills. Additionally, by being aware of rules for attentiveness and the distance between speakers during a dialogue, a reduction of violations of cultural rules during discussions and conversations can happen. Furthermore, teachers should watch out for racial jokes among students because ethnic humor is often perceived by many groups as evidence of racial prejudice. The mono-cultural approach to education, which emphasizes middle class Euro-centric content, instruction, and values add the additional learning task of acculturation to the work of schooling. This complicates learning the academic knowledge needed to be successful in school. Since we live in a multicultural society, all children must be educated about the multiple perspectives of the past that have created the present.
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