Native American Women Parenting off Reservations

Subject: Family, Life & Experiences
Pages: 9
Words: 2206
Reading time:
9 min
Study level: PhD

Problem Statement

Some researchers are interested in the needs of individuals who live on reservations. For instance, they examine social and economic aspects of people’s lives (Raheja, 2010). Many of the studies on this subject are aimed at examining the experiences of Native American women (Kuntz, Hill, Linkenbach, Lande, & Larsson, 2009; Pallacios, & Kennedy, 2010). However, the studies tend to examine only one specific issue that affects the life of Native American women who live on reservations. For example, Browker (1992) examines dropout rates among these females. This researcher reveals the dropout rates among women from the reservations. According to him, these rates are high relative to the situation in other US women (Browker, 1992). Other researchers have observed this trend. For example, Stearms (2006) confirms that Native Americans are more likely to leave school before graduation. In part, this phenomenon can be attributed to the differences in their attitudes towards education. Besides, Light and Marrin (1985) provide a study that focuses on the upbringing of children on reservations. Their study does not specifically concentrate on the parenting behavior of these women. Instead, it also provides an overview of how children are brought up off the reservations.

The aforementioned literature review studies indicate that more attention should be paid to the needs of women who want to raise their children off the reservation. Researchers such as Giles-Sims and Lockhart (2005) confirm the existence of culturally shaped parenting strategies. They also note that cultural factors can be associated with economic forces (Giles-Sims & Lockhart, 2005). Such studies fail to cast light on the specific experiences of groups that have long been isolated from the mainstream culture. They do not consider marginalized people. They must focus on a set of challenges that Native American females face. Besides, it is important to examine how these women raise children off reservations (Hodge, 2009; Rizos & Krizova, 2007). Researchers often overlook the problems that various Native American population sub-groups encounter. This study addresses the Native American women sub-group. The sub-group comprises women who are enrolled in the Crow Tribe of Montana and children who live off the reservation. One can claim that such groups have been marginalized by the state (Hooks & Smith, 2004). This study will enable Native American women who are currently residing off the reservation to share the experiences that they have gone through, both on and off the reservation (Swischer & Hoisch, 1992; Pallacios & Kennedy, 2010). Examining how these women raise their children off the reservations is worth the effort (Hodge, 2009; Rizos & Krizova, 2007). The research on the related literature reveals a dearth of studies that investigate first-hand experiences of Native American women who live outside the reservations. Such studies focus on women’s parenting concerns. This study will attempt to fill the gap by availing an opportunity for the targeted Native American women to voice the understanding of the parenting life both on and off the reservation (Swischer & Hoisch, 1992; Pallacios & Kennedy, 2010).


The cultural identity of an individual shapes his or her daily life. This claim is relevant if one mentions the needs of Native Americans (Champagne, 2000). The purpose of this study is to gather information about the exact experiences that women from reservations face. Based on the phenomenological and qualitative nature of the study, it examines the attitudes that women have towards raising children. The findings of this research apply to the outlined narrow population group. Hence, they should not be applied to other cultural groups. Any person who reads the study should consider these limitations.

Several reasons can be cited concerning why it is important to examine the topic. Legislators, politicians, and public administrators can use the findings of this study to understand the challenges that Native American women who live off reservations face. This study can also be used for policy development and decision-making. The information is also relevant to non-governmental organizations that are concerned with improving the living standards on Native American reservations.


This section presents the selected articles that relate to the lives of Native Americans both on and off the Native American Indian reservations.

  1. White (1995) and Ross (2005) examine the idea of growing up of Native Americans amid a different civilization
  2. Silko (1996) concludes that a person cannot easily integrate or reconcile two cultures. Consequently, Native American Indians who live off the reservations, have to adjust to a set of different behavioral norms.
  3. Several studies by Hoffmann, Jackson, and Smith (2005), Kuntz et al. (2009), and Fox, Becker-Green, Gault, and Simmons (2005) have been carried out to describe and explain the difficult economic conditions of people from reservations.
  4. Lankford and Riley (1986) highlight the various challenges that Native Americans who reside on reservations face on a daily basis. Among these difficulties, one can outline homelessness and poor living conditions as factors that push many families to live in houses that are too small to accommodate them. Reservations lack basic infrastructures such as running water, good roads, and telecommunication.
  5. Rizos and Krizova (2007) observe how these concerns push some women to believe that it is much better to raise their children off the reservations. Moreover, these people look for an opportunity that can enable them to climb the socioeconomic ladder.
  6. Hodge (2011) theorizes that cultural connectivity elements such as speaking tribal languages, participating in American Indian customs, and being connected to the community can be associated with people’s perceptions of wellness. He recommends culturally appropriate education and interventions that are consistent with cultural inclinations of improving people’s wellness status.
  7. Swischer and Hoisch (1992) look at studies of dropout rates of Native Americans. They provide detailed results that are difficult to come by due to the small size of the population.

Theoretical Framework

Historical Trauma

Native Americans have been historically traumatized from their negative experiences of being ousted and relocated from their homeland. Unlike personal trauma, their people’s historical trauma is focused on their collective trauma as families. This trauma is passed and even amplified from one generation to the next (Brave Heart & Debmyn, 1998; Campbell & Evans-Campbell, 2011). This situation affects the people’s collective and personal identity formation and relationship patterns in successive generations (Cowan & Cowan, 2005).

Systems Theory

Another theory that can explain Native Americans’ historical trauma is the systems theory. The presumption explores human experiences and behavior patterns. The theory states that human beings seek homeostasis. In relation to this study, each member of the Native American family system plays a role that contributes to the synchronized functioning of the system (Gray et al., 2013). Every person keeps his or her role such that children who have formed the role in a relationship pattern will likewise form similar relationships with others who can operate within the same family system (Bowen, 1985). Hence, if traumatic experiences alter family relationship roles, they may also influence succeeding relationship patterns negatively. For example, if a child is accustomed to his or her parents who are intoxicated most of the time, they may follow the same pattern when they grow up. Alcoholism may be accepted as a way of life. Parenting responsibilities may be left to grandparents. Studies by Campbell and Evans-Campbell (2011), Holman and Birch (2001), and Yoshida and Busby (2011) reveal that individuals’ view of their parents’ marital quality, relationship quality with each parent, and the impact of their family of origin can predict their marital stability and satisfaction in life.

Acculturation Theory

When people leave their native cultures by being transported into new ones, they undergo acculturation or adaptation to the new cultures. Gordon (1964) theorizes that immigrants assimilate the language and behaviors of the people in the host culture first. Structural assimilation follows. This process involves social and economic integration into the new culture. Finally, some immigrants get to the last stage of assimilation in which they identify with the new culture and abandon their identification with their cultures of origin. Gordon (1964) reveals how assimilation may affect more first-generation adult immigrants about their children who are born into the new culture. Gordon (1964) also enumerates the components of language, behavior, and identity as acculturation indices.

It is likely that an acculturation gap will grow with time between children and parents of immigrant families. In this case, the parents will hold on to their traditional cultures while the children will acculturate to the new cultures (Ranieri, Klimidis, & Rosenthal, 1994; Szapocznik et al., 1986). Children experience fewer difficulties while picking up the new language and learning the traditions and cultural behaviors of the people in the new culture. Consequently, their original culture, which is less exposed to them, diminishes in terms of the effect on their growth and development, unless their parents consistently push it to them (Birman & Trickett, 2001). With reference to Native American families, one has to consider the context of those who were relocated from their places of origin or the reservations from where they come in an attempt to determine how they can adjust to their new homes outside the reservation. An example is a Native American child’s interaction with new adults in his or her new school. He or she may not reinforce the customs and traditions that his or her parents have shown him or her. This situation leads to a cultural discontinuity between the home and school. In extreme cases, Native American children are asked to choose between their native heritage and school success. Such a dilemma leads to disastrous effects (Reyhner, 1992). Problems such as drug and alcohol abuse ensue due to the unresolved internal conflicts that come from teachers who pressurize students to give up their Native culture. To reduce school dropout rates of the Native American youths, it is important for teaching methods and school curriculum to be adjusted to mitigate cultural conflicts between home and school settings (Reyhner, 1992). This strategy helps the Native American mothers who may want to retain some of their innate values, customs, and traditions to pass them to their children, even if they (children) are already living outside the reservation.

Strengths Perspective

To overcome the negative experiences that individuals have withstood in life, their competencies, resilience, resources, and protective factors that lead to positive developmental outcomes should be emphasized (Leadbeater et al., 2004). The ‘Strengths Perspective’ is a theory that purports to assist people to identify, secure, and sustain their internal and external resources to help them to achieve their goals and/or establish mutually enriching relationships with the community (Kisthardt, 2002). This goal is achieved by strengthening the existing assets while at the same time facilitating the development of new resources to accomplish the pre-established goals (McMahon et al., 2013). Concerning the Native American individuals who have suffered negative experiences, the ‘Strengths Perspective’ presumption can become a tool to lift them and/or help them to be productive.

Research Questions

This study will be aimed at answering the following questions:

  1. What does it mean for a woman to grow up on the reservation?
  2. What experiences do women who grow up on reservations have when they choose to raise their children off reservations?
  3. What challenges do women who grow up on reservations face when they try to raise their children off the reservations?
  4. What are the reasons why women who grow up on reservations choose to raise their children off reservations?

Nature of the Study

The study will examine the experiences of Native American women who live on and off reservations from a qualitative viewpoint. The qualitative approach is suitable in cases where a researcher needs to understand the opinions and attitudes of respondents so that he or she can identify their specific concerns (Creswell, 2003). By approaching the participants in this way, the researcher will involve the participants in the discussion of various issues (Creswell, 2003). The information will be collected during semi-structured interviews when the respondents will be required to narrate their experiences of how they were brought up. In this way, one can understand the challenges they (respondents) face. This study will also examine the experiences of Native American women who were brought up on reservations, and are now living off the reservations. It will also focus on the attitude of these respondents towards the child’s rearing process off the reservations. The research will illuminate how the experiences of children or adolescents can affect their parenting strategies (Huh, 2006). They are not fully relevant to the needs of Native American females because they do not take into account the cultural legacies of different individuals. This matter is one of the issues that should be considered. In the process of this study, the researcher will generate his or her data and information from the interactions with people. This goal will be achieved by conducting interviews with women who live off reservations.

Possible Types and Sources of Information or Data

  1. Problem statements that have been written at four key points in a doctoral student’s career, namely the premise, the prospectus, the proposal, and the dissertation writing stage
  2. Ratings of problem statements by an expert panel of doctoral faculty
  3. Interviews with a representative group of women who were brought up on the reservations
  4. The study will be aimed at describing the experiences of these women as they raise their children off the reservations

Reference List

Browker, A. (1992). The American Indian female dropout. Journal of American Indian Education, 31(3), n.p. Web.

Champagne, D. (2000). Contemporary Native American Cultural Issues. New York, NY: Rowman Altamira.

Creswell, J. (2003). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. New York, NY: SAGE.

Fox, K., Becker-Green, J., Gault, J., & Simmons, D. (2005). Native American youth in transition: The path from adolescence to adulthood in two Native American communities. Portland, OR: National Indian Child Welfare Association.

Giles-Sims, J., & Lockhart, C. (2005). Culturally Shaped Patterns of Disciplining Children. Journal of Family Issues, 26(2), 196-218.

Hodge, S. (2009). Breast cancer–screening behavior among rural California American Indian women. American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 33(3), 35–42.

Hodge, S. (2011). Predictors of wellness and American Indians. Journal of Healthcare, 22(3), 791-803.

Hoffmann, L., Jackson, P. & Smith, A. (2005). Career Barriers Among native American Students Living on Reservations. Journal of Career Development, 32(1), 31-45.

Hooks, G., & Smith, C. (2004). The Treadmill of Destruction: National Sacrifice Areas and Native Americans. American Sociological Review, 69(4), 558-575.

Huh, D. (2006). Does Problem Behavior Elicit Poor Parenting? A Prospective Study of Adolescent Girls. Journal of Adolescent Research, 21(2), 185-204.

Kuntz, W., Hill, G., Linkenbach, W, Lande, G., & Larsson, L. (2009). Methylmercury risk and awareness among American Indian women of childbearing age living on an inland northwest reservation. Environmental Research, 109(6), 753–759.

Lankford, R., & Riley, D. (1986). Native American reading disability. Journal of American Indian Education, 25(3), n.p. Web.

Light, K., & Marrin, E. (1985). Guidance of American Indian children: Their heritage and some contemporary reviews. Journal of American Indian Education, 25(1), n.p. Web.

Pallacios, J., & Kennedy, P. (2010). Reflections of Native American teen mothers. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, 39(1), 425–434.

Raheja, M. (2010). Reservation Reelism: Redfacing, Visual Sovereignty, and Representations of Native Americans in Film. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Rizos, M., & Krizova, V. (2007). The Montana Experience: On and Off the Reservation. Web.

Ross, L. (2005). Native women, mean-spirited drugs, and punishing policies. Social Justice, 32(3), 54–62.

Silko, M. (1996). Yellow woman and a beauty of the spirit: Essays on Native American life today. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Stearms, E. (2006). When and Why Dropouts Leave High School. Youth Society, 31(1), 29-57.

Swischer, K., & Hoisch, M. (1992). Dropping out among American Indians and Alaska Natives: A review of studies. Journal of American Indian Education, 31(2), n.p. Web.

White, M. (1995). American Indian Studies: A Bibliographical guide. Tucson, AZ: Libraries Limited.