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Looking across three generations of Alaska Natives to explore how culture fosters indigenous resilience

TitleLooking across three generations of Alaska Natives to explore how culture fosters indigenous resilience
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsWexler, L
JournalTranscult PsychiatryTranscult Psychiatry
Volume51
Pagination73-92
Date PublishedFeb
ISBN Number1461-7471 (Electronic)<br/>1363-4615 (Linking)
Accession Number24014514
AbstractResearch has established connection between indigenous culture--often described in terms of cultural identity, enculturation, and participation in traditional activities--and resilience, the process by which people overcome acute and ongoing challenges. Despite correlations between culture and resilience, research has seldom described the ways these concepts are linked in indigenous people's narratives. Furthermore, little attention has been paid to the affect of historical trauma on different generations' understanding and deployment of "culture" in the context of hardship. This project, conducted in the summer of 2008 in an indigenous Arctic community, focuses on narratives from three generations who have experienced different degrees of cultural suppression in their lifetimes. From this starting point, the study explores how individuals make meaning and take strength from particular notions of culture, and illuminates the ways each generation accesses and deploys their cultural understandings in the face of hardship. By identifying the similarities and differences in both the challenges and sources of strength for each generation, the paper highlights how understandings of culture are shaped by historical experiences and modified through time. The differing ways that culture fosters strength, purpose, and fortitude (or does not) in indigenous young people's, adults' and Elders' life stories provide clues for enhancing indigenous youth resilience. Findings suggest that "culture" can galvanize Inupiaq people's sense of identity, feeling of commitment, and purpose, all of which are protective. However, young people need support in developing particular ideas around cultural identity and group membership that can contribute to resilience.
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