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Cultural Resilience in North American Indian First Nations: The Story of Little Turtle

By

G. Brent Angell, Ph.D.
School of Social Work and Criminal Justice Studies
East Carolina University

 

 

Abstract

 
        Protective factors, needed for personal resilience, are known to vary from culture to culture. As such, social workers are faced with having to increase their knowledge and competence when working cross-culturally. In a bid to advance this understanding, this paper takes a culturally sensitive look at resilience in North American Indian First Nations. Founded on an interview with a colleague, this inquiry considers the interplay of self-concept, family, and culture in the development of protective factors in resilience. Implications for practice employing an understanding of cultural resilience are discussed.

 

        A combination of genetics and experience affects how we cope with matters ranging from mischance to catastrophe (Flach, 1997; Fraser, 1997; Kirby & Fraser, 1997; Wolin & Wolin, 1993). However, it is difficult to deconstruct this biopsychosocial entanglement into a triaged series of component steps. As such, the wrangling over the protective factor pecking-order remains somewhat moot (Butler, 1997). What is certain is that the focus of coping and change, from a social work perspective, lies in our ability to comprehend the psychosocial factors affecting resilience (Angell, Dennis & Dumain, 1997).

        We do know that individuals develop protective factors as a means of remedying or abating the effects of life-events that place them at risk (Rutter, 1987). Protective and risk factors are not merely opposite ends of a continuum, but rather are sequential links in the developmental chain of resiliency (Smith, Lizotte, Thronberry & Krohn, 1995). However, as Kirby and Fraser (1997) and Coie et al. (1993) note, what is considered to be a protective factor in one culture could invariably be determined a risk factor in another. This in and of itself is not problematic until such time as a member of a particular culture attempts or is forced to bridge his or her culture with that of another.

        What is certain is that the family, the main conduit of culture, is a keystone protective factor determinate of resilience (Smith, Lizotte, Thornberry & Krohn, 1995). This supporting pillar of resilience is founded on the individual's formative years attachment to his or her parent or parents who in turn provide protection through value-based guidance and by modeling culturally ascribed behaviors related to adaptive functioning. It is important to keep in mind that a single protective factor safeguard, such as the family, cannot necessarily provide an individual with all the insulation he or she will need to avoid the ravages of risk, but it is pivotal (Rutter, 1987). A supportive family, therefore, is seen as enhancing self-esteem, improving self-reliance and personal efficacy, and supporting the individual in his or her bid for independence and control over his or her environment (Benard, 1991).

        The family acts as a canal that transports culture across time and space. As such, family and culture become inseparably tied together. As Linquanti (1992) and Benard (1994) suggest, strengthening protective factors, like family and culture, are as consequential in the development of wellbeing as is the abatement of risk factors. With this in mind, it is understandable that a strong connection by the individual to his or her family and culture are essential to the development of personal resilience. In turn, this connection serves as a catalyzing base for the individual to gain support and acceptance from likeminded others (Werner, 1984, Werner & Smith, 1992).

       In this paper, personal resilience is considered from the perspective of culture as conveyed to the individual by way of the family. In particular, the investigation looks at how a North American Indian First Nation social worker utilizes the protective factor of culture, and its agent the family, to make ethical decisions and deal in general with the dominant society.

Culture as Resilience

        Culture, according to Goldstein (1981), is comprised of shared rules, beliefs, and attitudes, which shape our perception and interpretation of life events. Not only does culture shape our thought processes and understanding through distinctive linguistic interpretation, forged by experience and environment, it facilitates our creation of a unique and comprehensive worldview. The natural outcome of this worldview formulation is the assumption that others perceive the world in a like manner, and this in turn spurs us to form interpersonal relations with those who are perceived to be culturally similar. How we understand and exhibit culture, therefore, influences how we comprehend experience and express our discoveries to others.

        In essence, each of us is on a personal quest to make sense of and find meaning in our world. Our goal is to seek out understanding by internalizing, personalizing, and reflecting on experience. It is a heroic journey, which starts in our families of origin, and forces us to face countless personal demons and social challenges in an effort to cope and find ourselves. Our success in this endeavor enhances our self-worth while at the same time revitalizing our culture via our interactions with others. As Pearson (1998) states, "The hero's task always has been to bring new life to an ailing culture" (p. 5). Each of us in our own way is engaged in a process of developing our especial heroic archetype, which in turn reinforces and rejuvenates our cultural roots.

        Goldstein (1984) helps us understand the pivotal role played by culture in his discussion of the integral parts of the self. First, is the Person of Mind. This aspect of self encompasses our thoughts, feelings, and representations of experience, which are intentionally produced by us to make sense of and cope with life. It is a metaphorical process that blends our personal, familial, and cultural interpretation in the formulation of a self-portrayal of experience.

        The second aspect of self is the Person of Community. From this vantage, the social-self gains shape. It is a representation of our externalized identity as a member of a family and cultural group, which reflects our sense of belonging and shapes our perception of self and how we are perceived individually as members of a larger social collective.

        The Person of Principle is the third aspect of self. Without attaching a right or wrong connotation, this aspect of self refers to the value-based process we engage in to make decisions. Culturally based, the Person of Principle echoes the ideology and morality we learned as family members.

        The final aspect of self, presented by Goldstein, is the Person of Faith and refers to our spirituality. Expressed to and by us first in the family, it is an aspect of self that, although transcending life, guides us in how to live and find meaning in the here-and-now. In essence, through guidance and by offering hope, spirituality enables us to cope with the harsh realities of existence, and connects us with culturally likeminded others.

        In keeping with Goldstein's conceptual framework, Cooley (1964) further illuminates this discussion of culture by way of his depiction of self-concept formation. According to Cooley, self-concept is a reflection of the responses we receive from significant others beginning with our families. In a process referred to as the "looking-glass self," the formation of our self-concept is tied to how we imagine we are perceived by others and how we in turn come to understand their assessment of us. It is an active and creative transaction wherein we selectively engage and are engaged by others in bolstering and enhancing our development of an independent self (Felson, 1981; Franks & Gecas, 1992). Of consequence, our public exposure to and internalization of others is by nature sociocultural and exposes us to certain beliefs and customs, which channel our developing self-concept in intended and unintended ways. Furthermore, Gecas and Schwalbe (1983) see domination and subordination as integral aspects of our interpersonal sociocultural experience, and key determinants in shaping our self-concept. The development of self-concept, accordingly, is a process of becoming wherein, for better or worse, how things turn out is tied to the experiences we have, choices we make, and the actions we take.

        Mead (1934) adds to the discussion of self-concept as a sociocultural formulation by suggesting that we are governed by symbolism, and employ labels or names to produce key symbolic artifacts, which are represented by us in our presentation-of-self. We attach meaning and act towards "objects" according to their labels or names. Similarly, as objects ourselves we attach and are attached meaning, and act and are acted towards according to how we are labeled or named. Tied to our cultural worldview, our labels and names convey a learned and shared meaning of who we are, how we behave, and how we are responded to. However, labeling and naming are not mere stimulus-response reactions, but, as Chomsky (1965) implies, meaning-making endeavors that are founded on collective linguistic significance derived from our history and experience as members of unique families and cultures, which provide us with understanding of the present and contextual direction for the future.

        More specifically, even personal and nicknames help define our self-concept and locate us socioculturally (Darden, 1983). Names provide a link between the soul and body, and are used to protect, guide, and empower. Names also serve to delineate individuals one from another, while at the same time tying people together as members of culturally distinct nations, clans, or subgroups. Much like Jung's archetypes, names help shape our inner potentiality (Jung, 1973; Pearson, 1998).

        Vickers (1983), for example, indicates that the Choctaw First Nation method of naming combined an animal with an admirable feat or skill in the hope of empowering and protecting the individual. Among the Choctaws, names could be changed or added to as need and achievement warranted. Similarly among the Zuni, Yuman and Hopi First Nations, names are assigned according to desirable enabling characteristics wished upon or noted in the individual (Parsons, 1923; 1937). In contrast, the Iroquois First Nations are noted by Alford (1988) for providing given names to members from sets belonging to the child's mother's clan. In furnishing individuals with given clan names, the bearer gained certain rights and was expected to fulfill certain duties according to tradition and in keeping with his or her ancestral namesake.

        In each instance, the assigned names used by First Nations communicate an assertion about self, family, culture, and society. Yet the names given can also prove to be problematic. Self-concept can be adversely affected when individuals dislike or are ridiculed because of their given or nicknames and this in turn can lead to social maladjustment, withdrawal, and diminished self-esteem (Willis, Willis & Gier, 1982).

        From a First Nation's perspective, Locust's (1988) discourse on the worldview of North American Indians provides a distinct perspective that accentuates the importance of culture in the evolution of resilience. Conceived to influence self-concept formation through a diffuse series of experientially based dichotomous expressions, resilience among First Nations is measured in terms of physical, mental, and spiritual harmony or wellness. In order to comprehend Locust's approach to understanding the culture of North American Indian First Nations, a case study will be used to illustrate how protective factors develop and nurture a resilient self-concept.

Case Study

        Entering one's interior story takes a courage similar to starting a novel. We have to engage with persons whose autonomy may radically alter, even dominate, our thoughts and feelings, neither ordering these persons about nor yielding to their full sway. (Hillman, 1983, p. 55)

        Glinda is a North American Indian whose mother is Cherokee and father is Metis, the descendant of Caucasian and North American Indian First Nation parents. She is a practicing master's level social worker who, at the time of contact, was between jobs following a run in with her employer over an ethical conflict. Glinda had been asked, but refused to "fudge" billing data to the government and managed care insurers. Facing disciplinary action for her noncompliance, Glinda decided to quit her job rather than compromise herself ethically.

        My encounter with Glinda resulted from my being asked by a mutual friend, who was also a social worker, to talk with Glinda about her resignation. It was his opinion that Glinda was having difficulty with her decision, not because of the ethical correctness of her move but because of the value dilemma it created for her. Having a professional interest in issues of ethical decision-making in social work and personal experience in working cross-culturally with North American Indian First Nations, my friend felt that it was a natural fit and that I might be of some assistance to Glinda.

        I indicated that I would be willing to talk with Glinda as a favor to my friend, but outwardly expressed doubt that I could be of much assistance. I offered this overt indication of misgiving as a way of masking my inner anticipatory fear of incompetence that frequently accompanies my cross-cultural forays. Relentlessly, my friend persisted, and I gave in and called Glinda fully expecting to be rebuffed for being an unwelcomed interloper. Surprisingly, Glinda gladly received my call and stated that our shared friend had told her to expect to hear from me as I might be able to help her gain some perspective on her decision to resign her position.

         We agreed to meet at Glinda's home located in a small city near the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Situated across from a public park in a stately brownstone walkup, I entered Glinda's nicely decorated home. Glinda was casually dressed for our meeting, and greeted me warmly. Immediately, she set out to fix a pot of hot tea, while asking me to make myself comfortable at the dinning room table. I was taken by the nostalgia of the place. In the dim sunlit room, family photographs could be seen adorning most of the open table and shelf space. A familiar pleasant mustiness, which I associate with elderly people's homes, inculcated my nostrils.

        Returning with our beverage, Glinda and I began to talk about her situation. She indicated that she felt that her decision to quit was ethically right, and mentioned that she had reported her concerns to the proper authorities including the state's NASW office. At the same time, Glinda relayed a sense of feeling somehow uncomfortable with her decision. As we talked further, it became evident that Glinda's uncomfortableness was associated more with her feeling culturally out of place as opposed to her ethical decision-making.

        As our conversation continued a number of themes, important to cross-cultural work, emerged, which served to inform my understanding and support of Glinda's self-concept, and the resilience she derived from being a member of a North American Indian First Nation. Her traditional name, search for harmony, and identity as a North American Indian provided Glinda with protection against the risk factors associated with cross-cultural living.

Themes of Resilience

Traditional Name:
 

Of all the themes of resilience that emerged from my encounter with Glinda, her characterization of self through her nickname Little Turtle, conferred on her by her parents at birth, was perhaps the most profound. Although initially consternated with the name Little Turtle, Glinda grew to understand that the diminutive name would play an important role in shaping her self-concept and identity as a member of a North American Indian First Nation. Glinda captures in her own words her earliest feelings associated with her name Little Turtle;

 

 

        That was the piece that I didn't understand, years you know for years in terms of ... why I got stuck with that nickname. Because to me it wasn't very complimentary. But I didn't understand that you give someone a name hoping they will be more like that and it didn't feel ... I thought, "Why do they call me that? That's not nice."

        As it turned out the nickname provided Glinda with a basis upon which to build and guide her life. She reflected that when she thought of the little turtle she remembered that she had to keep moving to reduce her vulnerability. In addition, the little turtle's shell provided protection, and like her namesake Glinda had developed a tough outer-shell to cope in the non-native world. In each instance the Little Turtle nickname provided a realistic allegory for Glinda that guided her through life. Through the little turtle parallelism, Glinda felt she was able to endure people and environments that were foreign or inhospitable by quietly escaping, reducing her visibility, or by sticking by her decision and deflecting any unwanted and unwarranted advances. In light of the experience Glinda had with her former employer proceeding with caution, orchestrating an escape, and being protective seemed reasonable if not advisable.

        The inculcation of Glinda's mannerisms and decision-making processes by the guardian temperament of the little turtle seemed to be consciously at the forefront of her understanding. The symbolism inherent in being named Little Turtle set in motion for Glinda a progressive life narrative wherein she plodded seemingly aimlessly, but in fact did have a heading. She was confident that in the end she would reach her goal, which was a part of something greater.

 

 

        But that, what that is it's the sense of being a piece of a giant whole. You're an important part of it, whatever you do has an impact on everything else ... you don't live in isolation, you are part of a greater whole. That's a spiritual whole. Its not a physical thing .

       The issue of double-mindedness cited by Glinda during our meeting, served as a plausible explanation for how she coped cross-culturally. Glinda explained double-mindedness as the ability to think and act with a dual identity as a member of a North American Indian First Nation and as a member of the dominant culture. Her sense of having "the best of both worlds" is attributable to her mastery of double-minded thinking bestowed upon her during her upbringing and strengthened by her incarnation as Little Turtle. This reptile's ability to survive on land or in water was mirrored by Glinda's expressed competency to succeed cross-culturally.

        Glinda's diminutive name Little Turtle proved to be of seminal creative importance in drafting the direction of her unique persona. The theme of survival in the face of hardship brought about by living in a multicultural environment. As Little Turtle, Glinda could pass in, cope with, and bridge her cultural worldview with that of the dominant society;

 

 

        The symbol of the turtle. You talk about the symbols and metaphors. You go back to that. Terms of the turtle's a pretty wily, little critter, low to the ground, close to the earth. Real important that the turtle needs to keep moving. When she needs to stop, ... me-she ... she can pull her legs in and look like a rock and fit in until the danger is ... you know.

        As a Person of Mind, Glinda's name accorded her a metaphorical means of contending with her life as a North American Indian living in a non-native environment. For her, Little Turtle became a synthesis of personal, familial, and cultural experience that allowed her to make sense out of that which was unfamiliar and unknown. From the perspective of the looking-glass self, Glinda's name contributed to her development of a resilient self-concept, and served as a significant protective factor when faced with having to function in cross-cultural contexts.

Glinda's social-self, as a Person of Community was also realized through her unique name. Little Turtle provided Glinda with a special identity within her family and First Nation, which in turn fortified her self-concept and resilience against risk.

Search for Harmony:
 

Understandably, Glinda's family played a momentous part in her development of victimizer as the antagonist in the evolution of her minority group status and attitude. Euphemistically referred to by Glinda as getting out of pocket, the role played by the victimizer in effect dictated the outcome in situations where Glinda and her family attempted to pass. As Glinda indicated;

 

 

        It had to do with the parents and being in a situation where there, we were under psychological or physical threat. Where there were people that were saying things and I don't remember specifics I just remember we were in a public setting, there were people getting out of pocket ... talking in a way that my dad knew or he picked up on non-verbals but I think it was verbal as I remember it was verbal.

        As the general realm of victimizer was introduced Glinda began to recall countless examples that related to coping with or avoiding "out of pocket" people. Glinda and her family's encounters with victimizers ranged from getting their porch blown off by dynamite, to being refused service in a grocery store, to being recognized by non-natives as an Indian. The family responded to the victimizers by withdrawing in typical native fashion to avoid conflict and/or an escalation of the confrontation.

         Glinda learned how to avert conflict from her father (an orator and teacher). He of all the family members passed appearance wise and professionally, as would Glinda. Within the family he functioned in the capacity of point man and scout. As the family point man, Glinda's father would lead the family through the enemy lines of the victimizers. If the family became endangered Glinda's father would issue the command to "get behind your mother's skirts" until the threat passed. In situations where he was afforded the opportunity, Glinda's father would scout out the surroundings before giving the all clear signal to the family. Glinda reminisced about the constant concern of her father and family with passing in the face of those potentially out of pocket:

 

Or he would go into ... that's one thing I remember is pulling up when we would be traveling. He would go into the restaurant and then come back out and say, "Let's go." I never understood what that was about until years later. He went in to check out whether it was okay. I thought he went in to check out whether it was an okay nice place.

        The family to Glinda played an important role in preparing her for her dual role in life as a member of a North American Indian First Nation and as a Native trying to pass as a non-native when need necessitated. The preparedness Glinda received from her family gave her "the best of both worlds." Yet in almost the same breath she acknowledged the problems associated with attempting to negotiate two worldviews. To Glinda success in one world at times meant compromise or failure in the other and vice versa. The protective factor of double-mindednessAn immobility to choose or pass in one world or the other placed Glinda at risk of being out of harmony with her threefold being much like the classic "marginal man" figure. In a sense Glinda was set an impossible task, given her lot in life, of having to traverse both worlds at the same time. She realized in herself that survival in two worlds would mean compromise, conflict, and confusion. Reflecting on the accommodations she had to make from a third person perspective Glinda states about North American Indians;

 

 

They're adaptable but I'm not sure that they should always have to be the one to adapt. 'Cause I think it's debilitating over a long period of time. I think psychically, and spiritually its debilitating. The whole issue around passing and I know that I didn't find out it was that until I got to graduate school that "marginal man" stuff the dangers of passing and of being absorbed of being acculturated when you slip into total insanity. I think you have to work real hard at staying centered and redefine, you have to redefine a lot. And you put the, I think I put the global kinds of things on, like, ecological stuff, value system stuff, that was a form of putting together a sort of sane system.

        Glinda frequently referenced the issue of wellness and illness from a First Nations' vantagepoint in her presentation. She understood that harmony of spirit, mind, and body ensured wellness while disharmony could lead to illness. As a cultural protective factor, understanding the interconnection between these three aspects of personal wellness helped explain her sense of health and wellbeing, and need to leave a deleterious work situation.

         The preservation of harmony is essential to wellness in First Nations' cultures. Glinda indicated that the role of her family was essential in her maintenance of harmony and wellness. Her family support bolstered Glinda's cultural sense-of-self and was reflected in the following passage;

 

 

That sense of belonging in that family ... I think is what makes for health on a level that I didn't ... and they were very wise about that and it meant a lot to them. I don't think they sat down and said okay this is what we're going to do. I think they knew this was an important ... that what they wanted it to be that they were close and had respect for those people and cared for them.

        The potential disparity between the spirit, mind, and body that conveys disharmony was constantly watched for and avoided. Glinda saw quitting her job as a way of escaping disharmony and restoring harmony and cultural wellbeing. To continue to work in a disordered environment would unavoidably lead to personal and cultural disharmony. In an effort to comprehend the extent of this disharmony, Glinda considered both the symptoms of the "illness" and its "causal origin" when making her decision. Although she did not have an instant remedy, Glinda knew that leaving her unhealthy work environment was an essential first step, and as a Person of Principle used her cultural values to aid her decision-making.

        Glinda felt that her actions had a direct effect on others, and her decision to expose her employer related to her sense of social responsibility that was culturally ingrained in her by her family. She used the following morality tale to explain her decision;

 

 

Its the pebble in the pond with no shores. It just goes on and on and the implications and ramifications are really powerful in terms of you need to treat the world with respect and sanctity. I mean there is a real spiritual quality to life and don't ... have fun enjoy but take it real seriously ...

Identity:
 

Glinda's family played a momentous part in her development of identity and resulting resilience. Forged out of struggle, Glinda's parents taught her how to avoid conflict with non-natives by picking up on threatening verbal and non-verbal cues. Glinda recalled several examples related to coping with or avoiding "out of pocket" people including getting their porch blown off by dynamite, being refused service in a grocery store, and being recognized by non-natives as an Indian. The family responded to these risks by withdrawing to avoid conflict or escalation of the confrontation.

        In particular, Glinda learned how to avert conflict from her father. He of all the family members passed appearance-wise and professionally, as would Glinda. Within the family he functioned in the capacity of point man or scout. In this role, Glinda's father would lead the family through the "enemy" lines. If the family became endangered Glinda's father would issue the command to "get behind your mother's skirts" until the threat passed. In situations where he was afforded the opportunity, Glinda's father would scout out the surroundings before giving the all clear signal to the family. Glinda reminisced about the constant concern of her father and family with passing in the face of those potentially out of pocket:

 

 

Or he would go into ... that's one thing I remember is pulling up when we would be traveling. He would go into the restaurant and then come back out and say "Let's go." I never understood what that was about until years later. He went in to check out whether it was okay. I thought he went in to check out whether it was an okay nice place.

        Being a member of a North American Indian First Nation was a tangible protective factor in Glinda's case and linked her to her own culture and those other oppressed peoples. Glinda recognized this and provided an example that occurred during her freshman college year. She was refused a room in the university dormitory being told she would be "more comfortable" elsewhere. As Glinda recalls the outcome of having to live off campus with other minority students;

 

It wasn't a bad thing that they did ... pushing the folks that didn't belong off together. I don't think they realized how good it was for us.

        As the Person of Faith, Glinda used her identity as a North American Indian to cope with adversity and connect with other oppressed peoples. She saw her strong spiritual beliefs as carrying her through times of trouble and affording her the opportunity to endure hardship. In essence, Glinda's culturally based belief system served as an important protective factor. Her self-concept in this regard is best represented in the following excerpt dealing with cultural meaning and her metaphysical understanding;

        Building a fire when you get cold. Here I go reverting to the metaphors again. The problem in the culture is that we move closer to the fire in order to stay warm whereas the majority culture builds a bigger fire. The danger when you build a bigger fire is that you don't have the ecological view. That you are going to use up all of the wood and everybody is really going to be cold. And I mean that not just physical, but I mean metaphysically. If I had to define, it's the knowledge that we need to move closer to the fire together to stay warm and to survive and I somehow know that. I'm not sure traditional peoples and reservation peoples and some medicine people would want that shared, because of the view that if we just keep that a secret we will survive and that they will take themselves and whack themselves out and that's a real racist view to me... separatist. I'm not sure I can do that. It's not divide and conquer. If anything comes to me out of my culture its cooperation not competition. And somehow or other we got to build a better place to be. Where there is acceptance for everybody, and where, you know the symbol we used when we started, where that is understood there is a continuum or there's all sort of things in that circle. This end and this end are not necessarily bad. That you need all that to make a whole and there is a reason for us, and even if there is no reason we are all here then we had better do a better job of it.

        Clearly, the family played an important role in preparing Glinda for her dual role in life as a member of a North American Indian First Nation trying to survive in a non-native dominated society. The preparedness Glinda received from her family gave her "the best of both worlds." Yet in almost the same breath she acknowledged the problems associated with attempting to negotiate two worldviews simultaneously. Glinda was confronted with an arduous task. She realized in herself that survival would mean compromise, conflict, and confusion. Reflecting on the accommodations she had to make from a third person perspective Glinda states about members of North American Indians First Nations;

 

 

        They're adaptable but I'm not sure that they should always have to be the one to adapt. 'Cause I think it's debilitating over a long period of time. I think psychically, and spiritually its debilitating. The whole issue around passing and I know that I didn't find out it was that until I got to graduate school that "marginal man" stuff the dangers of passing and of being absorbed of being acculturated when you slip into total insanity. I think you have to work real hard at staying centered and redefine, you have to redefine a lot. And you put the, I think I put the global kinds of things on, like, ecological stuff, value system stuff, that was a form of putting together a sort of sane system.

        The central themes drawn from the interview with Glinda form a comprehensive view of resilience from her perspective as a member of a North American Indian First Nation. Her self-concept communicates the protective factor strength she has been able to derive from her family and culture as a result of having to cope with life in a cross-cultural context.

        Considering personal resilience from the perspective of culture, it appears that Glinda was able to incorporate her family's understanding of what it means to be a North American Indian in a non-native environment. Personally and professionally, Glinda was able to use her experiences to safeguard herself and maintain her cultural integrity. In particular, Glinda was able to act effectively and ethically by employing her personal, family, and cultural experience to make an important decision dealing with a dominant society organization.

Conclusions

        Given the findings of this inquiry, a number of implications for practice arise. First, this investigation helps us appreciate the importance that culture plays as a protective factor in personal resilience. It is via culture and its medium the family that individuals learn how to cope with adversity. As such it is imperative that social workers pay heed to the family's interpretation of culture as presented by their clients.
 

        Secondly, social work professionals need to be reminded that as much as our clients may differ from us culturally, so might our colleagues. With this in mind, we must employ a similar aphorism of "starting where the colleague is" if we are to be truly culturally sensitive in our work.

        Lastly, social workers must recognize that when considering the concepts of risk, resilience, and protection a multicultural template does not exist. Variation within and between cultures is to be expected, and as such effective involvement will require social workers to explore the interaction between these concepts from the viewpoint of the individual and his or her family and culture.

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The author, G. Brent Angall, Ph.D., can be contacted at;
School of Social Work and Criminal Justice Studies
East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858
or via e-mail: angellg@mail.ecu.edu

 

 

 

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