Journal of American Indian Education

Volume 31 Number 1
October 1991


Charmaine L. Shutiva, Ph.D.

The purpose of this study was to compare creativity test scores and academic achievement of reservation and urban American Indian students and to examine the influence of culture on creativity.

Subjects for the comparative study were 150 eleventh grade students representing twenty-one different tribes. Of these subjects, 28 were attending public high schools in Albuquerque, New Mexico and were classified as urban Indians; 122 were attending public or Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools on or near their respective reservations. Reservation students resided on four reservations in New Mexico.

Students were administered the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT), Figural Form B (F-B).

Results of this study suggest that urban students are more creative than reservation students on the variables of originality, abstractness of title, resistance to closure, average, and creativity index scores. There was no significant difference between reservation and urban students on academic achievement. Also, urban students were more expressive of their ethnic heritage than reservation students as assessed in the drawings of the TTCT-F,B.

Creativity is a complex phenomenon consisting of at least four independent components or approaches: (a) the creative process, (b) the creative product, (c) the creative person, and (d) the creative situation or environment (Brown, 1989; Mooney, 1963).

When interjected into a cultural context the complexity of creativity magnifies and the perspectives change. The ramifications of creativity in the various cultures begin to have different expressions and carry different meanings.

Researchers (Bruch, 1971; Gerken, 1979; Maker & Schiever, 1989; Perrone & Aleman, 1983; Torrance, 1970) have noted the importance of discovering and enhancing the talent in various culturally different groups and have recognized that with the changing demographics of a minority/majority reversal occurring across the United States (Hogkinson, 1985; Kellogg, 1988; Olsen, 1988; Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, 1987), it becomes especially important that the talents of these individuals from minority cultures not go undiscovered (Maker & Schiever, 1989; Torrance, 1970).

Most educators agree that gifted children can be found in all racial and ethnic groups (Frasier, 1989; Maker & Schiever, 1989; Passow, 1981; Renzulli, 1973; Torrance, 1979), but studies show the number of culturally diverse students identified as gifted remains small (Chinn & Hughes, 1987; De Leon, 1982; Fitzgerald, 1975; Frasier, 1989; Montgomery, 1989; Perrine, 1989).

Several factors have been found to contribute to affect and influence culturally diverse groups' test performances, and thus, the underrepresentation of culturally diverse in gifted programs: (1) the definition of giftedness used in most programs reflects middle-class, Anglo-American culture values and perceptions, as a result, the goals of the program and curriculum usually reflect these values (Bruch, 1975; Gallagher et al, 1974; Maker, 1983; Passow, 1986; Tonemah, 1987), (2) tests used to identify the gifted are often standardized on populations that do not include a representative sample from all racial and cultural groups, therefore, they are often biased against the underrepresented groups (Fishman et al, 1967; Masten, 1981; Padilla & Wyatt, 1983), (3) standardized tests when translated into different languages often include items that do not make sense to the student taking the test due to inadequate translation or to the fact that there is no comparable question or phrase in the given language (Abbott, 1982; Brescia & Fortune, 1988; Padilla & Wyatt, 1983), (4) many individuals from minority cultures are also from low-income families and/or geographically isolated areas. This makes it difficult if not impossible to determine whether the problems in identification are due to culture, economic, or geographic differences (Fitzgerald, 1975; Maker, 1983), (5) procedures substituted for biased standardized tests often lack the reliability and validity data to justify their use in the selection process (Maker, 1983), (6) test items outside of the child's cultural and or linguistic milieu lack familiarity (Maker, 1983; Rodriquez, 1983), (7) greater weight placed on the verbal (usually English) performance in the interpretation of test scores (Florey & Tafoya, 1988; Passow, 1986; Torrance, 1964), and (8) premiums are placed upon speed in test taking situations (Torrance, 1964).

To rectify current identification measures so children from minority groups are equally represented in gifted programs, researchers (Baldwin, 1985; Banda, 1989; Frasier, 1989; George, 1987; Gregory, Starnes & Blaylock, 1988; Maker & Schiever, 1989; Mitchell, 1982; Perrine, 1989; Sisk, 1989; Torrance, 1968) have recommended several alternatives to assist in identifying and serving these "unrecognized diamonds." Collectively, they have recommended the need for the inclusion of (1) creativity (i.e., different ways in which children manifest behavioral indicators of giftedness); (2) expressions of creativity (i.e., subjective data should be included); and (3) a variety of identification measures that assess creativity (i.e., data should be gathered from multiple sources).

But despite the proliferation of articles, books and handbooks on creativity, little research has been done regarding creativity among the various cultural societies in the United States. One such culturally diverse group is the indigenous inhabitants of the United States, the Americans Indians. Although many live in communities on their reservations, each with its own culture, educational levels, and varying degrees of acculturation and traditionalism, an increasing number of American Indians are moving to urban areas, primarily for employment opportunities. It is estimated that about one-third of all 1,418,195 American Indians (Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1986) live permanently on reservations, one-third live in cities, and another third go back and forth between the city and their reservation (Fuchs & Havighurst, 1972; Wise & Miller, 1983). Five metropolitan areas identified as having large populations of American Indians are: the Los Angeles-Long Beach area with 47,234; Tulsa with 38,463; Oklahoma City with 24,695; Phoenix with 22,788; and Albuquerque with 20,721 (Tippeconnic, 1990). Also, it has been noted that 11 states contain five or more reservations: Arizona had the largest reservation population (113,763), followed by New Mexico (61,876).

Further, it is important to note that the population figures for American Indians will differ depending on who is doing the counting. For example, to be designated as an American Indian eligible for Bureau of Indian Affairs services, an individual must be a member of a federally recognized tribe and be of one-fourth or more American Indian ancestry (BIA, 1986) but to be counted by the Bureau of the Census a self-identification method is utilized.

But no matter what identification procedure is used the fact still remains that American Indians continually are not assessed and identified as gifted and talented students within the educational setting. For example, a 1982 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education revealed that although American Indians nationally comprised 8% of all public school students, only 3% participated in gifted programs, whereas Euro-Americans comprised 73.3% of the total public school enrollment, 82% participated in gifted programs (Florey & Tafoya, 1988).

Ramirez & Johnson (1988) also noted a similar finding. They found that although there was an increase, nationally, of American Indian students in programs for the gifted and talented from .8% in 1978 to 2.1 % in 1986 there was still a large discrepancy between the proportion of enrolled Indian students and those served by gifted programs. Of the six states (Alaska, Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, and South Dakota) having a rural Indian population of at least 75%, they found only Arizona had more than 2.0% of its Indian students in gifted and talented classes.

Recognizing that many tribes have had to strive and struggle to maintain their tribal culture and heritage one means by which they have preserved and reinforced their culture has been through their arts. Although American Indian art has changed over time, its vitality and power remains. Gifted Indians continue to explore divergent artistic avenues to represent their perceptions of the world and humankind's proper place in it (Wade & Stickland, 1981). The reverence and importance given to art as part of the American Indian's daily life have resounded their beliefs and values and stands as an entity of defining their "Indianism" in their changing society(ies).

Being American Indian (i.e., the quality of being American Indian), whether Comanche, Navajo, Cree, Blackfoot, or Zuni is distinctive and it entails a unique orientation toward the world. It means being taught personal values, aspirations, and rules of conduct different from Euro-American society (Wade & Stickland, 1981) which, in turn, affects American Indians' art and creativity.

Today, the traditional art is viewed as "a vital link to maintaining the creative life force of [the Indian] people" (Szasz, 1977, p. 70). To many the essence of creativity is embedded in much of their beliefs and the ceremonials and rituals that pronounce their beliefs. Researchers have continually reiterated that one tribe is not like the other and that, although there are general tribal beliefs and values that transcend tribal boundaries, how these beliefs and values are expressed greatly differ (Abbott, 1982; Beck & Walters, 1977; Tonemah, 1987). American Indians recognize that enhancing and using individual tribal members' special talents can promote the general welfare of the tribe (Montgomery, 1989).

In Wounding the Spirit: Discrimination and Traditional American Indian Belief System, Locust (1988) provides a list of traditional tribal beliefs held by many American Indians that strongly affect the formal educational process of Indian students:

1. American Indians believe in a Supreme Creator or All-Spirit.

2. The spirit existed before it came into a physical body and will exist after the body dies.

3. Humans are threefold beings made up of a spirit, mind, and body.

4. Plants and animals, like humans, are part of the spirit world. The spirit world exists side by side, and intermingles, with the physical world.

5. Illness affects the mind and spirit as well as the body.

6. Wellness is harmony in spirit, mind, and body.

7. Unwellness is disharmony in mind, spirit, and body.

8. Natural unwellness is caused by the violation of a sacred or tribal taboo.

9. Unnatural unwellness is caused by witchcraft.

10. Each of us is responsible for our own wellness.

These beliefs are expressed in various values and attitudes that educators and researchers have noted American Indians adhere to and maintain (Beck & Walters, 1977; Cuch, 1987; Davidson, 1987; Sisk, 1989). Several of the values and attitudes are:

1. Cooperation versus competition (LeBrasseur & Freark, 1982; Little Soldier, 1985; Luftig, 1983; Sisk, 1989).

2. Reticence versus verbalization (Boseker & Gordon, 1983; Luftig, 1983; National Education Association, 1983; Zintz, 1969).

3. Individual less important than group (Bradley, 1989; George, 1987; Hanson & Eisenbise, 1983; Kirschenbaum, 1989).

4. Emphasis on the family and clan (Kirschenbaum, 1989; Little Soldier, 1985; Montgomery, 1989; O’Malley, 1982; Sanders, 1987).

5. "Excellence related to contribution to the group–not to personal glory" modesty is valued (Hanson & Eisenbise, 1983; O’Malley, 1982; Pepper, 1976).

6. Visual imagery, symbolism, role-playing, and observation a necessity in learning (Carley, 1980; Davidson, 1987; Marashio, 1982; Ross, 1982; Tafoya, 1982a; Wade, et al., 1983).

7. Importance of memory as a source of learning (Bradley, 1989; Marashio, 1982; Tafoya, 1982b; Worth & Adair, 1972).

8. "Total immersion of the mind and body into the learning process"; holistic learning style (Cattey, 1980; Cuch, 1987; Locust, 1988; Marashio, 1982; Tafoya, 1982b).

9. Listening skills highly developed as a result of the oral tradition (Little Solider, 1985; National Education Association, 1983; O’Malley, 1982; Zintz, 1969).

10. Concept of time circular with emphasis on the present (Lockart, 1978; National Indian Child Abuse and Neglect Resource Center, 1980; Ortiz, 1975, 1984; Sando, 1976; Skupaka, 1972).

11. Concern for accuracy versus concern for speed; patience is valued (Montgomery, 1989; O’Malley, 1982).

12. Giving and sharing are highly respected and valued (Bradley, 1989; Little Solider, 1985; Lockart, 1978; Ross & Brave Eagle, 1975).

13. Learning includes a knowledge of self, harmony and balance in the world, brotherhood with all natural elements, and the adult world (Beck & Walters, 1977; Locust, 1988; Stolworthy, 1987).

14. Religion as a way of life which values the use of dance, artistic symbols, and music to express religious beliefs (O’Malley, 1982; Sando, 1976; Sisk, 1989).

These values and the cognitive strategies, processes, and preferences have been found to influence American Indian students' creativity and academic achievement (Sisk, 1989). Conflicts with the values taught in the public school system are believed to be one of the major underlying factors of why American Indians do not fare well in the classroom (Davidson, 1987; Sanders, 1987). Most notably, the value of cooperation held in high esteem by many American Indians is confronted from the first day an American Indian child starts school.

For example, Sisk (1989) noted that in most American mainstream schools the emphasis is on competition, verbalization, individualism, and the desire to excel–personality characteristics indicative of the mainstream gifted student. In the American Indian community these characteristics are negatively valued. The degree to which an American Indian student confronts conflicts will depend to a large extent on where the student resides, reservation or city.

Thus, school systems attempting to identify gifted and talented American Indian children will have to take into consideration the factors of culture and how it affects American Indian students' creativity and academic achievement both on and off the reservation.

Reservation Students

Most of the studies on gifted and talented American Indians have been conducted on those living on or near a reservation (Abbott, 1982; Faas, 1982; George, 1987; Kirschenbaum, 1989). Because many of the communities on reservations in the Southwest are rural and isolated, tribal values and beliefs can be readily taught to younger generations with minimal to no interference of non-Indians (Ortiz, 1984; Sando, 1976).

Studies about reservation lifestyles and gifted and talented Americans Indians have shown that the pressures for conformity and the beliefs (Locust, 1988) which regulate community cohesiveness can often predicate an individual's willingness to display any evidence of academic or artistic talent (Montgomery, 1989; Kirschenbaum, 1989). The necessity of cooperation, conformity to community order, and emphasis on the group versus the individual often regulates a reservation student's willingness to "risk, to experiment, to find out what is possible, to discover one's limits, and to feel free to wander"--conditions Torrance (1971) asserts are factors necessary for creativity(ness). The emphasis on group conformity is so strong on some reservations that American Indians adhering closely to traditional ways often view originality and assertiveness as faults and as offensive to the homogeneity highly regarded by the tribe (Highwater, 1980).

For example, Kirschenbaurn (1989) has observed that those students who come from families adhering to a conservatively traditional American Indian cultural way of life experience difficulties if they attempt to express themselves more creatively than usual and those American Indian students who are talented in traditional modes of expression of their particular tribes, such as in the areas of pottery, pow-wow dancing, beadwork, silversmithing, or even athletics, will be supported in the development of their talents by parents and relatives.

Faas (1982) also found similar results when he surveyed 45 American Indians and 34 non-American Indian teachers who taught American Indian students. He found that the references to functional behaviors of giftedness often emphasized the individual's responsibility to the sustenance of the tribal group rather than behaviors which distinguish the person from his or her peers. Besides leadership skills, oratorical skills, and sensitivity to the feelings and needs of others, the characteristics of gifted and talented behavior included other special abilities such as the baking of bread, weaving, livestock raising, healing, and the telling of stories.

The numerous regularly occurring reservation tribal ceremonies and cultural events help to define their tribal edmic identity which promotes a positive ethnic identity that has been shown to be one of the most important aspects of building and maintaining a positive sense of personal identity among the culturally diverse gifted (Pfeiffer, 1989; Sando, 1976). These ceremonial rituals which emphasize the importance of community, clan, and family over self in turn affect American Indians' academic achievement and creative thinking. Torrance (1969) has asserted that the more closely a culture allempts to adhere to traditions, the less it encourages creative thinking.

Studies examining gifted American Indians show that creativity and creative thinking does occur on the various reservations, however its manifestation is often not recognized or assessed in the academic setting because American Indian creativity often occurs outside the parameters of classroom walls (Kirschenbaurn, 1988; Montgomery, 1989; Torrance, 1977). As a result, researchers have proposed that assessment of gifted and talented American Indian students be conducted both inside and outside of the academic setting (Bruch, 1971; Kirschenbaum, 1989; Montgomery, 1989; Passow, 1972; Tonemah, 1987), and that giftedness and creativity be defined by each individual tribe or cultural community (George, 1987; Kirschenbaurn, 1989).

Urban Students

Studies on American Indians living in cities show that many have to cope with conflicting values and discrimination (Mucha, 1984) and many possess a strong sense of responsibility to family, kinship group, and tribe. However, the longer they remain in the city the more distant they become from many of the traditional cultural values and beliefs that were once so important to them on the reservation (Little Soldier, 1985; Fuchs & Havinghurst, 1971).

Although few studies have been conducted on urban gifted and talented American Indian students (Maker & Schiever, 1989), Torrance (1964) has identified flexibility, independent action, manipulation of ideas and objects to discover new combinations, tendency to seek alternatives and explore new possibilities, and self-initiated learning as indicators of creative learning among culturally disadvantaged children.

Garbarino (1971) found in his studies of American Indians living in the Chicago area that "within the matrix of city life there seems to be a detribalization resulting in a general identity as [American Indian], rather than tribal member" (p. 203) and that this detribalization is greatly influenced by and reflects the socioeconomic class of the urban Indians. He notes that as American Indians live in the city they become increasingly more independent, more flexible, able to improvise as necessary, and able to manipulate situations and utilize resources of both cultures to maximize the options for survival.

Academic achievement among urban Indians is similar to what is found on the reservation, that is, low academic achievement. Unlike reports from reservation schools, many of the urban schools reported concerns about the high number of American Indian dropouts in their school districts (Albuquerque Public Schools Planning, Research, and Accountability, 1987). For example, in the Albuquerque school district American Indians comprised 2.7% of the total high school enrollment, but the percent of American Indian dropouts was 3.2%. They constituted the largest percentage of the dropout population looking at the high school population as a whole (Albuquerque Public Schools Planning, Research, and Accountability, 1987).

Unlike the reservation lifestyle which encourages youth to learn the various traditions and customs of the past, the urban Indian youth lives in a multicultural setting which encourages assimilation and discourages practicing ways different from to the general American population (Little Soldier, 1985). Many urban Indian parents are lower working-class citizens who have raised their children with few contacts with traditional life and extended family, and speak mostly English to their children, which means many urban Indian children have little knowledge of their native languages (Fuchs & Havighurst, 1972; Wise & Miller, 1983). Though language is considered an important component of an American Indian's identity, many urban Indians actively participate in Indian cultural events and activities like Pow-wows (Brown, 1986) and Indian sponsored sporting events (Cheska, 1988) without knowledge of their tribal language. Participation in these events help to redefine, revitalize, and reconstruct their ethnic identity (Cheska, 1988). They turn to these cross-tribal events to express their uniqueness, facilitate intracultural communication, create group and cultural identity, and achieve success in an otherwise indifferent or negative school and community environment.

It has also been suggested by many researchers that the American Indian student who does well academically in school is the more acculturated American Indian. Tonemah and Britton (1985) found that of the American Indian students identified as gifted and talented in the Oklahoma school districts, 68% had less than one-quarter American Indian blood, while about 9% claimed three-fourths American Indian blood or full-blooded. In recognition of this finding, Maker and Schiever (1989) assert that "if the degree of [American Indian] blood is related to the degree of assimilation into the Anglo-American culture, one could surmise that the more [American Indian] students are assimilated, the more likely they are to be identified as gifted and talented" (p. 77).


Students were administered the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, Figural Form B (TTCT-F-B). Academic achievement was determined by the students' cummulative Grade Point Average (GPA). After completion of the testing, four artists (three American Indians and one Euro-American) evaluated the tests to determine the evidence of American Indian culture in the drawings.


Participants in this study were selected from four reservations in New Mexico and from 8 different high schools in the Albuquerque Public School system.

Subjects for this study were 150 eleventh grade American Indian high school students. Twenty-eight of the students were urban Indians who had resided in Albuquerque, New Mexico for four or more years and were attending a high school in the Albuquerque Public School District. The remaining 122 students were reservation Indians from four reservations in New Mexico: Zuru Pueblo, Acoma Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo, and the Canoncito Band of the Navajo Nation.

Although all the reservations are predominantly rural the Zuni and the Canoncito reservations are both located relatively near to a metropolitan area (either Albuquerque or Gallup).

Students participating met the following selection criteria: (1) they were one-quarter or more American Indian blood and were enrolled on their respective tribal census rolls, and (2) they were in eleventh grade or of eleventh grade standing enrolled in high school.


The figural form (Form B) of the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT) was used to assess the creativity of the students. This figural form of the TTCT is a norm-referenced, group administered instrument which requires responses that are mainly drawn or pictorial in nature with a small amount of writing required. Examinees were directed to label or title the pictures they had drawn (Torrance, 1984).

Test booklets were streamlined standardized scored by the Scholastic Testing Service. Seven standard scores derived from the TTCT, F-B were used to test the various hypotheses that measured creativity. These scores measured (1) fluency, the production of a large number of ideas; (2) originality, the use of ideas that are not obvious or are statistically infrequent; (3) abstractness of titles, the ability to transfer the essence of the figural into another modality; (4) elaboration, the development, embellishment, or filling out of ideas; and (5) resistance to premature closure, ability to "keep open" in processing information to consider a variety of information (Amabile, 1983; Torrance & Ball, 1984). The average of these standard scores gave a creativity average which was then pooled with the creative strength ratings to get an overall indicator of creative potential termed the creativity index. The creativity index score, the creativity average score, and the other standard scores of the five creativity variables were then used for this study.

The administration of the TTCT was conducted as specified in the TTCT Directions Manual and Scoring Guide (Torrance, 1984). Students were asked to complete all three activities in the test booklet: (1) picture construction, (2) picture completion, and (3) circles. The testing was conducted during a regular class period.

Statistical procedures

A t test of significance was conducted to compare the means of the creativity test scores and GPAs between reservation and urban students. Test of the hypotheses were made by using a predetermined alpha value of .05. Because the Study was designed to determine only whether a difference existed, a two-tailed or non-directional test was used.

To determine the evidence of the influence of culture on creativity the testing results of the TTCT, F-B for each student were averaged together by group (reservation versus urban) then a t test comparing the two means was calculated. For the purposes of this examination a student who drew a design of picture or wrote a title that was culturally or tribally related received a high rating score compared to a student whose drawings/titles did not show evidence of any American Indian influence. Interrater reliability of evaluators was r = .97.


Demographic data on the participants in the study are presented in Table 1.


Characteristics of Urban and Reservation Native American Students














Age Range




Native American Blood











Dominant Language Spoken in Home







Both Languages



No response




Understand Tribal Language

Don't know it



Can understand, but not speak it



Can understand, speak it a little



Can understand and speak well



No response



Taken a H. S. course about Tribal History








Mean family income

under $ 10,000









over $30,000



no response



Eighteen different tribes were represented: Zuni Pueblo, Acoma Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo, Navajo, Isleta Pueblo, Cherokee, Comanche, Jemez Pueblo, Taos Pueblo, Santa Ana Pueblo, Zia Pueblo, San Felipe Pueblo, Papago, Apache, Tlinget, Seneca, Hopi Pueblo, and Sioux. The following tribes were represented by six percent or more of the total subject population: Zuni Pueblo, 48%; Laguna Pueblo, 13.3%; Acoma Pueblo, 9.3%; Navajo, 8%; Isleta Pueblo, 6.0%.

The t test of significance revealed that urban students scored significantly higher than reservation students on five creativity variables--originality, abstractness of titles, resistance to premature closure, creativity average, and creativity index (see Table 2).



Means, Standard Deviations, and t-Test Results for the TTCT, F-B Creativity Scores for

Reservation and Urban Native American Students



Creativity Variables












































Resis. to Closure










Crest. Average






Creativity Index










* n = 122. ** n = 28. ***p < .05.

To determine if the creative variables found to be significant were due to the unequal sample sizes, a Wilcoxon signed-rank test of significance was used to test the distributions of scores of the reservation and urban samples. The Wilcoxon signed-rank test of significance showed that if the scores of the samples had been correlated (either by repeated measures or by matching) the creative variables found significant by the initial t test would still have been significant. Results of the Wilcoxon signed-rank test showed significance for originality (Z = 2.11, p < .05), abstractness of titles (Z = 3.46, p < .01), resistance to premature closure (Z = 2.97, p < .01), creativity average (Z = 3.22, p < .01), and creativity index (Z = 3.28, p < .0 1).

There was no significance difference between the urban students and reservation students in regard to their academic achievement as measured by their cummulative GPAs (see Table 3).



Grade Point Average Means, and Standard Deviations of Reservation and
Urban Female and Male Students











































Thus, residence appeared to have no effect on students' academic achievement as measured by their GPAs and, as a consequence, the results yielded no statistically significant differences between GPAs and the seven creativity variables measured by the TTCT, F-B between reservation and urban students.

Although for the purposes of this study, creativity test results were compared by residence when the urban and reservation groups were examined by gender statistically significant differences appeared which aided in explaining why the urban Indian population's test results were statistically significant. Comparison of creativity test score means by gender revealed that the urban female students scored statistically higher that the reservation female students on six of the creativity variables-fluency, originality, abstractness of title, resistance to premature closure, average, and creativity index. Examination of the mean creativity scores of groups by gender showed that the urban female students scored 10 to 15 points higher than reservation females, reservation males or urban males on several of the variables.


Means, Standard Deviations, and Univariate Analysis for the
TTCT, F-B Creativity Scores for Urban and Reservation Female Native American Students




Creativity Variables






























Res. to Closure






Crest. Average






Crest. Index






*n = 14. **n = 67. F = F(1,79).

****p <.05. *****p <.01.


Means, Standard Deviations, and Univariate Analysis for the
TTCT, F-B Creativity Scores for Urban and Reservation Male Native American Students




Creativity Variables






























Res. to Closure






Crest. Average






Crest. Index






*n = 14. **n = 55. *** F = F(1,26).

****p <.05.

As a consequence, it can be stated that the urban female students mean creativity scores accounted for the significant differences between reservation and urban populations.

Results of the evaluation of the American Indian cultural influence on the drawings and titles of the TTCT, F-B also yielded some interesting relationships and findings. Comparison of the overall means for each group revealed that American Indian students living in the city were rated higher by the four evaluators than reservation students meaning that urban students more frequently provided "answers" on the TTCT, F-B that showed evidence of their American Indian heritage or culture. The mean score for urban students was 34.70 (SD = 8.53) and the mean score for reservation students was 30.11 (SD = 9.84). However, the findings showed that the American Indian cultural influence was cross-tribally represented instead of tribally-specific. For example, a common American Indian "theme" drawn by the urban student was a feather. Although several students from the Zuni tribe drew the Sun God design which is indicative of their tribe it was not drawn as frequently or as consistently as the feather was among the urban population. Also, it is interesting to note that the feather was not a common "theme" among the drawings executed by reservation students.


The impact and influence of culture and environment on creativity is substantial and cannot be underestimated or overlooked (Clark, 1983). A culture or subculture will specify, according to its own value system, those avenues of behavior which prompt creative behavior (Draper, 1980).

A review of the literature demonstrated that there are many dimensions to creativity. Cultural and environmental factors greatly affect creativity especially creativity as assessed among the culturally diverse gifted like American Indian gifted and talented children. Factors which appear to affect creativity's development and enhancement among American Indians may result from their cultural values. These values include: emphasis on the family, clan, and tribe; non-competitiveness; circular concept of time; giving and sharing; learning which includes a knowledge not only of self but of self with the world; and, lastly, that all things created by the All-Spirit have power (energy) and this power is sacred and spiritual.

While recognizing that many factors play crucial roles in creativity, it is clear that American Indians residing in an urban environment are exceptionally creative according to the measure used. That the urban female obtained higher scores than the other groups can be interpreted to mean that the urban females are more willing to explore new ideas and embellish on these ideas, to take risks, and to be more independent. Garbarino (1971) has suggested that conditions of the urban environment requires independence, flexibility, and the ability to improvise as necessary, what Little Soldier (1985) termed "survival skills". Urban females may be more equipped with certain "survival skills" for life in the city than urban males.

Locust (1988) presented many of the beliefs that underlie American Indian cultural values. The prevailing wellness-unwellness duality which surrounds and permeates the ceremonial functions prevalent and inherent in the Indian world, especially the reservation world was found to aid in an understanding of the importance and purpose of ceremony.

All ceremonies in the American Indian world create and support the sense of community that is the bedrock of tribal life (Allen, 1983). Indians living on a reservation are indoctrinated with the purpose of ceremony: to integrate, to fuse the individual with fellow community members, nature and the universe. A review of the literature revealed the world view of American Indians and the importance placed on ceremony on the reservations which weighs on American Indians' creativity and academic achievement and thus may have affected the results obtained in this study.

On the other hand, American Indians living in the city were found to have few contacts with traditional life (ceremony), extended family, and most had little knowledge of their tribal history or culture. Garbarino (1971) found urban Indians to be more independent, more flexible, and able to improvise as necessary. The fast pace and competitiveness inherent in city living was found to be significantly different than the slow pace and cooperative attitude emphasized among Indian reservation communities. After an examination of the cultural values that are in place and enforced on the Navajo and Pueblo reservations, it may not seem so surprising that urban Indians scored higher on the creativity test.

Whether American Indian students reside on reservations or in the cities, assessment of their creativity will provide invaluable information to help further enhance and strengthen their creative development. Examination of their creativity will also provide significant information about the influence and impact of their Indian culture on their creativity. Preservation of American Indian culture is of optimal importance today for many elders, educators, and tribal leaders (Bradley, 1989; Sando, 1976; Tonemah, 1987; Zah, 1983). The strength and beauty of the American Indian culture runs deep and strong through the various forrns of traditional artistic expression. Their art and creativity serves as a viable link between the past and the present.

Recommendations for Further Study

Based upon the results of this study the following recommendations are suggested for the practical application of fostering creativity among American Indian high school students:

1. Provide in-service workshops for faculty to teach them about the various American Indian beliefs and cultural values that affect American Indian's creativity and academic achievement.

2. Provide American Indian students opportunities to explore different avenues of expressing their creativity while emphasizing that their various forms of cultural creative expression (i.e. songs, dances, pottery making, beading) are indeed worthy expressions of creativity that do not need to be left at the door when they enter the classroom.

Charmaine Shutiva, Ph.D. is an Acoma Pueblo/Navajo who holds a doctoral degree in Education Psychology specializing in Gifted and Talented Education from Texas A&M University.


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