14-4 “Cultural Resilience” Resource Guide

May 15th, 2003 | By | Category: 14-4: Cultural Resilience, Resource Guides
By Joyce A. Strand, Ph.D., and Robert Peacock, Ed.D

Resilience has been defined as a creative response to adversity and as an innate human characteristic that enables individuals to overcome negative situations in their lives. In Indian country a new construct for resilience has surfaced called “Cultural Resilience.” This theory proposes the use of traditional life-ways to overcome the negative influences of oppression, abuse, poverty, violence, and discrimination.

Research has identified the role that tradition and culture play in overcoming such factors in American Indian families, schools, and communities. This annotated bibliography looks at the literature, identifies the philosophy, and reviews the applications of fostering cultural resilience among American Indians, particularly those at risk.


Bergstrom, A., Cleary, L., & Peacock, T. (2003). The seventh generation: Native youth speak about finding the good path. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.

This book is a study of 120 high school-age American Indian youth from throughout the United States and Canada. The topics range from personal stories, identity issues, when life gets tough, and making it in school. Unlike other studies, this book expresses the responses in the students’ voice. It captures their feelings and opinions, their individual and collective experiences. The Seventh Generation invites readers to share the successes and failures of these students and experience their relationships with their families, peers, teachers, and community. In addition, the book includes a chapter for teachers. Chapter Nine, “Lessons for educators: Teaching, curriculum, and research,” is a book in itself with invaluable information for all who intend to work or are working in the field of education. To learn more contact: http://www.ael.org/eric/fora2001.htm#november26

Freire, P. (1993). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company.

Published over 30 years ago, this work continues to articulate the Freirean philosophy of freedom. Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed is not an easy book to read or understand. The author challenges the reader by saying: The task of the oppressed is to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well. Freire says resilience from oppression is fostered through the cultural circle, a group that reflects on words and symbols from a common language and culture. These words, metaphors, or proverbs evoke thoughts and feelings or reveal a historical point of view that has meaning to the group members and their way of life. Since the words and symbols come from the same language and culture, the group can reflect on their collective stories and reveal new insights about themselves and their situation. Growth through the cultural circle assists the group members to overcome their status as objects for outside political, economic, or educative manipulation. By stimulating the thinking of people submerged in a culture of silence, this process helps them emerge as conscious makers of their own cultures.

Duran, E., & Duran, B. (1995). Native American postcolonial psychology. Albany, NY: State University of New York.

This book takes on the Western individualistic ideology at the root of most research practiced today and exposes its destructiveness to Native American traditional approaches. In the authors’ view, assuming that a tribal worldview can be explained from a “totally foreign” Western worldview is the essence of imperialism. Using Western philosophy to try to understand American Indians is both frustrating and futile. Duran and Duran legitimize Native knowledge and identify the use of traditional healing to work with specific problems such as alcoholism, suicide, and family issues. Finally, the authors reiterate the need to understand the destructiveness of intergenerational trauma and internalized oppression in order to understand the issues facing Native Americans today.

Brendtro, L., Brokenleg, M., & Bockern, S. (1990). Reclaiming youth at risk: Our hope for the future. Bloomington, IN: National Educational Service.

In just 144 pages, Brendtro, Brokenleg, and Bockern describe ways of building self-esteem to foster resilience. They contend that traditional Native American child-rearing philosophies provide a powerful alternative in educational and youth development. The authors model those cultures where the central purpose of life was the education and empowerment of children. In contrast to the recent down playing of self-esteem, the authors view fostering self-esteem as a primary goal in socializing typical children as well as children at risk. They assert that a child without a sense of self-worth is vulnerable to a host of social, psychological, and learning problems. This book describes four basic components of self-esteem: belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. This philosophy is portrayed in a diagram of the medicine wheel and identified as the “central values.” Brendtro, Brokenleg, and Bockern say we often fail to really see the child, as at one time we were unable to see the women, the peasant, and other oppressed people. We as a society have arranged for our children to be out of the way as much as possible and not have a voice in society’s verdict concerning them. This book is a must read!

Cajete, G. (1994). Look to the mountain: An ecology of indigenous education. Skyland, NC: Kivaki Press.

Cajete uses the expression attributed to Sitting Bull (take what is good from the White Man) and incorporates it into an innovative theory for Indian education. With roots in Native tradition and culture, Cajete recognizes that modern education can provide the tools essential to the future of Indian communities as long as they are kept within the context of a greater cultural whole. Indian people must determine the future of Indian education. Cajete believes education is also transformational because it is connected to the deepest human drives. From this viewpoint all human beings concern themselves with

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