Journal of American Indian Education

Volume 36 Number 1
Fall 1996


Michael Tlanusta Garrett

Today, many American Indian youth experience cultural conflicts and difficulties in identity development due to differences between the values and expectations of their tribal traditions and those of mainstream American social and educational systems. The effects of acculturation are discussed in terms of bicultural competence, and the Bicultural Identity Development Model is described and illustrated in relation to the narrative of an American Indian elder. In keeping with the oral tradition of storytelling as an important method of conveying information and experience, the elder's narrative or life-story elaborates upon the informal educational influences of a- traditional Indian approach to "learning the Medicine." The narrative, divided according to stages of bicultural identity development--(a) personal identity, (b) choice, (c) denial/confusion, (d) appreciation, and (e) integration is presented as complete excerpts grouped according to major themes which emerged from the interview. These major themes included the importance of naming, family influences, storytelling, natural approaches to life and healing, life lessons and individual choice, movement between (the physical and spirit) worlds, and integrating all aspects of oneself into a unified whole in order to fulfill one's purpose of "bridging the gap" between worlds and cultures.


The United States consists of one of the most diverse populations in the world. The once popular notion of America as the great "melting pot" has given way to a growing awareness of the truly diverse and multicultural nature of this pluralistic society (Atkinson, Morten, & Sue, 1993). In the past 20 years, the United States has experienced social, cultural, and demographic changes that continue to shape the nature of American society as a population of many peoples (Herring, 1995). However, historical factors continue to act as a powerful influence on the experiences of many American Indian people.

Many authors have described the deliberate attempts throughout United States history by mainstream American institutions such as government agencies, schools, and churches to destroy the American Indian institutions of family, clan, and tribal structure, religious belief systems and practices, customs, and traditional way of life (Deloria, 1988; Heinrich, Corbine, & Thomas, 1990; Locust, 1988; Reyhner & Eder, 1992). Deloria (1988, p. 166) commented, "When questioned by an anthropologist on what the Indians called America before the white man came, an Indian said simply, 'Ours'." Characterized by institutional racism and discrimination, there is a long history of misunderstanding of traditional American Indian cultural values and beliefs on the part of the dominant culture (Deloria, 1988; Locust, 1988). Five stages of U.S. government policy have transpired which lead to the current state of sovereignty of American Indian tribes (adapted from Heinrich et al., 1990, p. 129). These five stages include (1) the removal period (1600s to 1840s) characterized by the saying, "the only good Indian is a dead Indian"; (2) the reservation period (1860 to 1920s) characterized by the saying, "kill the Indian, but save the person"; (3) the reorganization period (1930s to 1950s) with schools allowed on the reservation; (4) the termination period (1950s to 1960s) with Relocation Programs intended to achieve sociocultural integration in order to end dependence on the federal government (resulted in the sale of large tracts of Indian lands and increased poverty); and (5) the self-determination period (1973 to the present) with increased tribal sovereignty following a period of American Indian activism.

By the end of the eighteenth century, the once abundant population of Native peoples had been reduced to 10% of its original size (Oswalt, 1988). Policies of extermination and seizure of lands were common in the history of the United States' interaction with American Indian tribes. Even after being forced onto reservation lands, many Indian families experienced disruption of their cultural traditions. Many American Indian children were deliberately taken from their homes and forced to attend boarding schools where they were not allowed to speak their native language or practice their traditions. The children usually spent a minimum of eight continuous years away from their families and communities (Deloria, 1988; Herring, 1989; Sue & Sue, 1990).

American policies of assimilation have had a pervasive impact on Native peoples and their way of life (Herring, 1989; Locust, 1988). The U.S. citizenship of American Indians was not recognized until 1924 when the Citizenship Act was passed (Deloria, 1988). In addition, American Indians' religious freedoms were not recognized until 1978 when the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed, guaranteeing Native peoples the constitutional right to exercise their traditional religious practices for the first time in over a century (Deloria, 1988; Loftin, 1989). These are but a few examples of historical factors which have affected American Indians psychologically, economically, and socially for generations. Although the experiences of many American Indians have changed as circumstances and policies changed, historical factors and the process of acculturation remain as powerful influences on the lives of many Indian people faced with difficult choices about who they are and how they want to live (Herring, 1989; Little Soldier, 1985; Locust, 1988; Mitchum, 1989; Reyhner & Eder, 1992; Sue & Sue, 1990).

In order to best understand the historical context and meaning of the American Indian experience with implications for the education of American Indian youth, it is important not only to understand the effects of acculturation, but to listen to the voices of the people who have lived the experiences and who are living the experiences now. The purpose of this article is to (a) discuss the process of acculturation experienced by many American Indian youth, (b) present the narrative of an American Indian elder as an illustration of bicultural identity development and the process of enculturation, given the influence of cultural conflicts and acculturation, and in doing so, (c) elaborate on the historical and contemporary context of a traditional Indian approach to the education of youth.


Acculturation has been described as:

. . . the cultural change that occurs when two or more cultures are in persistent contact. In this process, change may occur in each of the cultures in varying degrees. . . . A particular kind of acculturation is assimilation, in which one culture changes significantly more than the other culture and, as a result, comes to resemble it. This process is often established deliberately through force to maintain control over conquered peoples, but it can occur voluntarily as well. (Garcia & Ahler, 1992, p. 24)

For an individual person, acculturation might be indicative of "a process of giving up one's traditional cultural values and behaviors while taking on the values and behaviors of the dominant social structure" (Atkinson, Lowe, & Matthews, 1995, p. 13 1). Level of acculturation has been associated with patterns of conflict resolution, willingness to use counseling services, personality characteristics, educational achievement (Atkinson, Lowe, & Matthews, 1995; Suinn, Ahuna, & Khoo, 1992), and has been identified as a dimension which influences within-group cultural values (Carter, 1991).

Although many of the core traditional values permeate the lives of American Indians across tribal groups, American Indians are not a completely homogeneous group, differing greatly in their level of acceptance of and commitment to specific tribal values, beliefs, and practices through a variance of customs, language, and type of family structure. Four basic levels of acculturation have been identified for American Indians:

  1. Traditional-Generally speak and think in their native language; practice only traditional customs and beliefs.
  2. Marginal-May speak both the native language and English; may not, however, fully accept the cultural heritage and practices of their tribal group nor fully identify with mainstream cultural values and behaviors.
  3. Bicultural-Generally accepted by dominant society; simultaneously able to know, accept, and practice both mainstream values and the traditional values and beliefs of their cultural heritage.
  4. Assimilated-Generally accepted by dominant society; embrace only mainstream culture and values (adapted from LaFromboise, Trimble, & Mohatt, 1990, p. 638).

According to Little Soldier (1985), "marginal" American Indians are the ones most Rely to experience a variety of difficulties resulting from cultural conflict. "They may become trapped between their birthright and the dominant society, losing touch with the former but not feeling comfortable in the latter ... [leading to] conflicts and resulting in serious identity crises" (Little Soldier, 1985, p. 187). These are the Indian youth who are most likely to experience a sense of being "caught between two worlds" as they struggle for identity and a "sense of place" (Garrett, 1995). By contrast, bicultural Indian students are identified as having less personal, social, and academic difficulty because of their ability to effectively utilize a greater range in modes of social behavior and cultural communication that are appropriately employed in a variety of contexts and situations (LaFromboise & Rowe, 1983; Little Soldier, 1985) (see Figure 1).


Identifies/enculturated with traditional American Indian values, behaviors, and expectations.   Raised/enculturated with traditional American Indian values/worldview, but has acquired the behaviors required for functioning in mainstream American culture. Identifies/enculturated with mainstream American values, behaviors, and expectations.
Figure 1. The acculturation continuum (adapted from Little Soldier, 1985)

Through enculturation, defined as "die process by which individuals learn their home culture" (Little Soldier, 1985, p. 185), many American Indian children learn traditional values, beliefs, and modes of behavior and communication as a primary frame of reference. In the school environment and elsewhere, however, American Indian students are oftentimes faced with pressure to compromise their basic cultural values and behaviors in order to successfully meet the expectations and standards of that context (Sanders, 1987). Hurlburt, Kroeker, and Gade (1991) reported a higher incidence of feelings of rejection, depression, and anxiety reported by American Indian students in comparison to other students. Around 5th and 6th grade, many American Indian students begin to withdraw, becoming sullen, resistant, and indolent (Sanders, 1987). The apparent decline of academic functioning and motivation in American Indian students along with corresponding personal and social difficulties has been attributed, in part, to the difficulty that many American Indian students have in reconciling existing cultural differences (Garcia & Allier, 1992; Little Soldier, 1985; Sanders, 1987; Tierney, 1992). According to Sue and Sue (1990), the split between American Indian tradition and mainstream expectations provides added stress to the already difficult challenge of identity formation. Consequently, cultural conflict has been hypothesized as a factor in the large percentage of American Indian students that drop out of school (Colodarci, 1983; National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 1991; Sanders, 1987).

Researchers have discussed the significance of adolescence and early adulthood as a time of rapid changes occurring in physical, cognitive, and social growth (Bryde, 1972; Erikson, 1963; Erikson, 1968; Muuss, 1988; Smith, 1991; Sprinthall, 1988). Erikson's (1968) theory of identity development emphasized the need for individuals to complete certain developmental tasks during specific developmental stages in order to maintain a healthy personality and successfully progress through subsequent developmental stages. Adolescence has been characterized by Erikson (1968) as the stage of "identity versus identity confusion" in which the individual's developmental task is to establish a meaningful sense of personal identity. Identity achievement implies that the individual must assess his or her personal strengths and weaknesses to determine the best way of establishing a sense of congruence with his or her self-concept (Muuss, 1988). This involves answering such questions as, "Where did I come from? Who am I? What do I want to become?" The inability to sufficiently answer such questions, according to Erikson (1968) results in identity confusion, which is accompanied by feelings of alienation, isolation, and uncertainty.

Cultural values and the influence of acculturation as a mediating factor in the process of identity development is of critical importance for American Indian youth (Deyhle, 1992; Hornett, 1990; Sanders, 1987). According to LaFromboise, Coleman, and Gerton (1993, p. 399), "it is possible for an individual to have a sense of belonging in two cultures without compromising his or her sense of cultural identity." Brendtro, Brokenleg, and Van Bockern (1990), have suggested that in order to establish a healthy cultural identity, American Indian youth must find ways of satisfying the need for purpose through a sense of belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. The process of acculturation experienced by many Indian students from early adolescence to early adulthood influences not only their definition of themselves as individuals, but also affects their social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual well-being (Cummins, 1992; Little Soldier, 1985; Mitchum, 1989; Tierney, 1992). This presents an additional challenge for Native American youth in achieving a meaningful sense of personal/cultural identity through bicultural competence, defined as the ability of an individual to effectively utilize "dual modes of social behavior that are appropriately employed in different situations" (LaFromboise & Rowe, 1983, p. 592). In order to be culturally competent, according to LaFromboise et al. (1993), an individual must:


(a) possess a strong personal identity, (b) have knowledge of and facility with the beliefs and values of the culture, (c) display sensitivity to the affective processes of the culture, (d) communicate clearly in the language of the given cultural group, (e) perform socially sanctioned behavior, (f) maintain active social relations within the cultural group, and (g) negotiate the institutional structures of that culture. (p. 396)

Thus, the biculturally competent individual possesses a high degree of resiliency through a strong sense of him- or herself in one or more cultural contexts. Understanding the experience of the biculturally competent individual becomes important in understanding what it means to cross cultural boundaries, and how to best work with others who also must cross these boundaries successfully.

Relating the Self Through Narrative

For many American Indian tribes or nations, the oral tradition of storytelling serves as an important educational method for conveying traditional values, beliefs, and expectations (Duryea & Potts, 1993; Garrett, 1991; Oswalt, 1988). It is through stories that many American Indian people learn, and it is through learning that we come to an understanding of ourselves, the world around us, and our relationship to everything in that world. Soliciting a person's story involves creating an opportunity to understand that person's life-experience as he or she understands it (Riessman, 1993). With any given story, the importance of relationship cannot be overlooked. This includes "neither the 'objective' (structure) nor the 'subjective' (culture) but the relationship between them; neither past nor present, but the relationship between them; neither dominant memory nor commonplace understandings, but the relationship between them; neither the personal/individual nor large-scale changes, but the relationship between them" (Casey, 1993, p. 12). Given these many relationships, the narrator must make decisions about framing the text concerning "the emphasis to be placed on particular elements, the way in which the elements are to be assembled for presentation, and the underlying set of assumptions..." (Casey, 1993, p. 25).

Framing, according to Casey (1993), depends upon the narrator's worldview which is "inextricably bound up with its relationship to other worldviews (in a system of intertextuality)" (p. 26). The narrator has understandings and interpretations (how they tell their story as well as what they tell) within particular contexts that allows his or her development of self, understandings of others, and responses to existing social arrangements. The narrator communicates through language, defined as "the way in which human beings make meaning, as well as worldviews that have been socially constructed in that process" (Casey, 1993, p. 3). This communication as narrative also relates the narrator's worldview and culture as a perceptual lens through which the person views the world. The focus of the narrative approach is on understanding meanings communicated through language by particular persons in relation to particular contexts. As one Indian elder put it, "in order to truly know your place in the Circle, you must recognize where you stand in relation to everything around you."

Bicultural Identity Development of a Cherokee Elder

Racial-ethnic-cultural identity development has been defined as the progressive awareness and pride in one's racial, ethnic, and cultural heritage (Sue & Sue, 1990). Bicultural identity development, however, is a more complex process as described by the five stage model, adapted from Herring (1995) and Poston (1990). The stages of bicultural identity development include (a) personal identity, (b) choice, (c) denial/confusion, (d) appreciation, and (e) integration. Progression through the various stages of bicultural identity development is neither unilinear nor smooth for persons who may experience their unique circumstances as "marginal people." People enculturated in one culture, but required to function in another, experience a dual existence in two cultural realms, yet may not be completely accepting or accepted in either cultural realm. They are, however, in a unique position of either being able to or being forced to choose an identity.

The respondent, J. T. Garrett, Ed.D., M.P.H., member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, was selected for the uniqueness of his cultural/ethnic background which includes a wealth of experience in both mainstream and traditional American Indian cultural realms. Dr. Garrett is the current Health Director for Carteret County in North Carolina and the former Director of Health Care Administration for the Indian Health Service (IHS), U.S. Public Health Service. He is also the past deputy director of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs; he served for a number of years as the administrator of the Cherokee Indian Hospital, and worked at one time as a director of safety and industrial hygiene in private industry. With public health as his primary concern, he brings not only his academic and professional experience, but also his training in Indian Medicine from his grandfather, Oscar Walkingstick Rogers, and other Medicine elders including the late, Doc Amoneeta Sequoyah. From the traditional frame of reference, he speaks the Cherokee language, is recognized by tribal members as a Medicine person, and works with people who come to him for guidance and for Medicine, In addition, he teaches others in traditional ways to preserve the Cherokee heritage for future generations. Dr. Garrett describes himself as having over 35 years of experience in Indian Medicine. He was raised on the Qualla Boundary (Cherokee Indian reservation) in western North Carolina.

The interview was conducted in a 2-hour session in which Dr. Garrett was asked to discuss his life-story in terms of how he had come to be the person that he is today: "Who are you? Tell me stories, if you will, relating your understanding of how you came to be the person that you are today." When asked to describe who he was and tell stories relating to the development of that identity, Dr. Garrett chose to describe the many lessons he learned "coming into the Medicine." What follows are the stages of bicultural identity development illustrated by complete excerpts from Dr. Garrett's narrative grouped according to the major themes which emerged.

1) Personal Identity
At this level, one's identity is based mostly on personal identity factors such as self-esteem and feelings of self-worth within his or her primary reference group. Enculturation and his or her limited life-experience determines, to a large extent, who that person is. Persons at this stage may experience identification problems when they internalize outside values and expectations.

What is in a name.
My mother used to call me Jaybird, but she never really said it in front of anybody else, she would always just say that to me. She'd tell me that grandpa always had pet names for everybody. Of course, later on, I realized that that was just the way Indians do. Everybody has a name based on how they behave, or some incident that's occurred. And since I was J.T., and I really didn't like being called J.T. too much, and I didn't want to be called Jasper, that was my first name. During the war, my father who was Jasper Sr., they would shorten that, and they would call him "Jap." During World War 11, nobody wanted to be called "Jap," so I didn't want to be called "little Jap" and I didn't want to be called J.T. either, so she knew that and she would always call me Jaybird, or an Indian name, something that was Indian.

2) Choice
Persons at this stage feel the need or are pushed to choose an identity, usually of one cultural or ethnic group. Many factors can influence the individual's identity choice such as status, social support, and personal factors.

You gotta understand the stories.
She'd [Dr. Garrett's mother] tell me stories about stories of my family, and stories of the Removal. I didn't have a picture of what that might have meant by "Removal." At that time, the influence was after WWII, even very young I remember some of the Japanese-Americans being removed from their homes and put into camps. And so I had this picture when my mother would talk about the Indian Removal, of Indians being moved from their homes and put in these barricade camps. And she would say that they were rounded up from Red Clay country and over into Tennessee, and around Severeville, and all the way up to Big Cove, and all in the mountains all the way up to the West Virginia line and Tennessee line, down to South Carolina and North Carolina, and put in these barricades. So I had this picture in my mind of all these Indians looking like Japanese (laughing), and they were all put in these barricades and just kept there. But also in my mind, they would show the newsreels each Saturday when we would go to the movies, they all got out, so as my mother would tell the story, I just assumed that all Indians got out too. And when she told me about the Indian Removal, she told me about a great, great, great grandma that, her name was "Chenowah" and she was from the Walkingstick family and she was the only one that we knew of, that at that time, and that would have been in 1838 that she would have been transported or moved or marched, or however they made people go, by wagon, by horse, whatever you had, to west of the Mississippi under what they called the Indian Removal Act. She told me that she was an old lady, I have no idea how old, but I had this picture of this old lady with this blanket on and a scarf on her head and everything else, walking all the way back from Oklahoma after the Removal, because once they got them there, there was no control to keep them there. And so many of them just went different places. That's the reason that some of the families are located in Texas, located all the way back to West Virginia, cause they couldn't go back to where they thought their home was, They were told that their home was sold under treaty, and they had no homes left, and so a lot of them scattered all over the place.

Well, I think the stories probably gave me a sense of connection with the Indian side more than anything else. What I remember most of all is everything that my grandfather ever said because to me, he must have been the tallest man in the world. I was such a little boy, and I'd look up at him, and he was tall, tall and slender. Boy, I thought he was such a fine man. The first thing he'd say every time I'd see him was "Ceo Tsayoga," in other words, hello there little bird, how you doing. The first thing he would always do is he'd put me up on his shoulders, I remember that, and take me down to the creek bank. He'd say, "Come on, let's go to the creek bank ... gonna do some fishin." I never fished. I never got a chance to fish. I don't know that he ever fished. It's like if he had a chance to take me fishing, that was a chance to tell me stories, teach me values. And one that I do remember very much was when we'd look in the water because I really enjoyed as a little kid just looking at the little minnows, seeing the fish in the water. And he'd let me look for hours, and I don't know whether he was fishing or not, I think he was. We never brought home any fish. I think he would always put the fish back, even if he caught one. But I remember one time, we were down on the creek bank, and I was a little guy, and he said, "Put your feet in the water, you know, the water's healing, put your feet in the water and the energy of the water will just come right on up your body and it'll say, ooh just makes you feel so good." He said, "Here let me put my feet in the water" and I remember he had big long feet. I remember him sticking those big long feet in the water and I remember the fish would all take off, and he'd say, "That's because my feet stink, I got stinky feet." I remember that, you know, little things like that. But one time I had my feet in the water, and he was sitting on a rock, and a little old piece of wood come down and hit me, and man, I jumped up real fast, and I said, "What was that?" and he said, "Oh, it was probably one of them water dogs." And I said, "Do what?" and he said "Yea, got big ol' water dogs, they come down through here," he said "you gotta be careful, cause every once in awhile, they just reach up there and grab you ... see if you don't hear them barking, you don't know they're there." So I had this picture of something that was roaming around in the water called a "water dog" you know, going "rooh, rooh, rooh, rooh" and I kept listening to see if I'd hear any water dogs. I don't know that I ever understood what a water dog was, but he used to tell me there were water dogs, and I believed everything he said. Even to this day, when I go down to the creek bank, every once in awhile, I'll just kind of listen to see if I hear any water dogs. But I'm sure all it was, was a stick that was just going down through the current.

One day we were sitting, my grandfather and 1, and I think my uncle was there, and this little bird, I think it was a little chickadee cause it kept making a certain sound, and my grandfather would say, "chick-a-dee, chick-adee, come here and play with me" (laughing). But anyway, the little bird kept flopping around, you know how they flop around, their little legs. He kept looking, walk around a little bit more, and look, go back out and come back, look... And I saw this little worm, and all it was, was a little Earthworm, and was real small. And it was kind of squiggling around, moving around in the Earth. And it kept kind of coming up a little bit, then it would go back down, come back up. And I realized, after watching that for a little bit that this little bird was looking at that worm. I had this picture of the little worm coming up and saying, "Ali, this looks pretty good, well, I better go back down and do my Earth work." And I said to my grandfather, "What's the little Earthworm doing?" He said, "Well, you gotta understand the story of the little Earthworm, see, in the beginning of time, after the big Buzzard came down, and messed up the land and everything and it dried up, it was hard, and so the Earth said, 'whoa, I'm so hard and cracked, I'm hurt all over' so the Great One said, 'well, we'll put some little things there to help you loosen up your soil, and besides that, the plants won't grow on soil that's not loose, and the water will just run off' so He sent the little Earthworm. And the little Earthworm was a little playful thing, they liked to get in the Earth, and move around, and swzzeeet, take it inside of it." Grandfather used to say, "You know, they're good to eat too, the sand's not good, but you can cut 'em open and cook 'em, up, it's good protein." I mean, even way back then, they knew those kind of things. And I could think, "Yuuuck," you know, imagine eating an Earthworm. So this little Earthworm just kind of looked up and said, "Ooh, it's a pretty day" then he'd squiggle down in the Earth, then he looks up and says, "Ooh, it's a pretty day" and I could see this little bird going over there, SHHHPP, grabbed that Earthworm (laughing). And I could almost see in mind, this little Earthworm saying, "Oh no, wait a minute, wait a minute, you don't want to pull me out of the Earth" because he was trying to pull, and the Earthworm was going down, and he was pulling (laughing). He had a time, you know, pulling that worm out of the ground... but sure enough, he got it up, and it was flipping around. And I had this image, I think my grandfather might have even been talking to me, you know, I could hear the Earthworm saying, "Wait a minute, you don't want me because I have a purpose here, you take me away, and I won't be able to do what I'm put here to do, cause the Great One gave me a job to do." And I could almost see the little bird saying, "No, I'm hungry and I'm gonna EAT YOU UP." He said, "Yea, but if you eat me, then I won't be able to loosen up the ground" and besides that, according to my grandfather, the very first Earthworms were put here to loosen up the ground so that the sunflower seeds would grow. A garden could never start unless the sunflower seeds were planted, and the BIG sunflower plants could look up into the sky, and give thanks to the Sun, and keep a watch on all the plants, to keep all the little birds and the animals from coming in-so the sunflower had a purpose. And I could see this little Earthworm saying, "Please, don't take me, I've gotta do my job" and the next thing I know, GUULLP (laughing), then he just flew off. Part of that worm went in his mouth, and I could still see it, you know moving around.

Another thing that I remember is that grandpa, grandpa Oscar Rogers, he kind of liked pretty girls, but he wouldn't look at them too much. He'd kind of took down, kind of glance over, and look a little bit. And he'd say, "There's a certain way to look at a pretty woman." Boy I wanted to know how to do that cause I didn't want to get myself in trouble. One time, I really saw this pretty woman, and I was kind of looking. He said, "kind of like that eh?" And I said, "Oh, no sir, I'm not looking at, at what you think I'm looking at..." And he said, "well I'm not looking either, that's the reason I look down, and I just take a glance over, see." The reason that was special to me was because he said "what I do is I keep it in my mind," he said, "I just take a glance, and I keep it in my mind." I thought, well I gotta keep it in my mind, so it was real important for me to keep things in my mind. So I'd make pictures, I'd draw pictures, and I used to draw a lot when I was real young. And I'd spend a lot of time, because I knew that I couldn't remember these plants, so I'd draw pictures of them. Mom probably still has some of the pictures I drew of plants. I learned a lot about plants. Plants always seemed to be an influence for me in my life.

Seeking the way that is natural.
Every time we'd go to the mountains, and I'd see Aunt Shirley, she'd always want to take me out and show me different plants. I seemed to have a green thumb, I was really good at that. My very first job, I believe I was I I or 12 at the time, was taking care of a man's garden, he was a very wealthy man. He had this large garden-a lot of flowers. So I became influenced by plants and flowers, and couldn't understand why I was so good at it, cause it just seemed like I had a natural knowledge of how to work with plants. And I seemed to communicate with them, but I never told anybody, cause that wasn't cool... You don't want to say, "Hey daddio, I been out talking to some plants" or somebody would think you were a looney tune.

Another one I remember, being influenced by the plants, was that one time I had an earache, and one of my uncles, matter of fact, I think it was uncle Charles, who had a lot of drinking problems, I had such an earache, and I was hurting, and I was holding my ear, and he said, "What's going on there?" And I said, "Well, I got an earache." He said, "Shoot, that's no problem." He said, "What did your momma do for you?" And I said, "Momma's not around, and grandma's cookin" because she was a short order cook too. Everybody worked doing something so they could bring an income into the family. And he said, "Ahh, it's no problem," he said, "let's find one of those puff balls." I said, "What?" He said, "You know, puff ball" he said, "you ever stepped on one of those things, and they go pweeskhkt." He said, "It's a little brown thing on the ground, and you look for them in the woods." And sure enough, we went into the woods, and sure enough, there were these little brown things, and he just kind of opened one up and took that stuff and put it down in my ear. Needless to say, I didn't have any idea that it had antibacterial properties, and that's basically what it was. He said, "If we had some distilled water, we could put it in some distilled water, but you don't want to put this water in cause it's got all that stuff in it, you don't want to put nothing like that in your ear, it'll just make it worse."

At an early age, I learned to know how to take care of myself in natural ways, and to seek natural ways. And I used to always drink tea. I can remember drinking tea. We didn't have tea bags, we used to get tea in bulk. And you would make your own bag. There was a certain cloth my grandma would buy, and we would just cut it up and tie it up and make our own tea bags, and then we would mix up whatever we wanted to. As an example, if I had a sore throat or a cough, she'd get some black cherry or wild cherry bark, and she'd mix up some plantain leaf, I mean just putting different things together in a tea bag, and seep that, and that's what we would take. I was influenced by all these things.

3) Denial/Confusion
Persons at this stage immerse themselves in the chosen identity to the exclusion of other cultural influences/identities, or they may be experiencing confusion and guilt at being pushed to choose one identity that is not fully expressive of his or her life or cultural background. This is a time of self-reflection and questioning of cultural values, beliefs, or expectations that may have been simply accepted as a given up to this point. Persons at this stage may have experienced alienation at the choice stage and made a choice even if they were uncomfortable with it.

It's not the medicine that does the work.
Well, my grandfather passed on, matter of fact, he died of cancer. And that's something that really bothered me because I couldn't understand, if he was such a powerful Medicine Man, such a powerful spiritual man, why'd he have to die? Why didn't he have Medicine to cure him? Cause he told me, and I do remember this, he said, "T'here's a plant, there's Medicine for everything. Anything that ever happens to you in your life, there's always a special plant out there for it, all you have to do is go out and seek it, go out and find it." So I kept thinking, you know, I was so angry when my grandfather died, why didn't he seek it? You know, he always told me there was. And I guess that's one of the first times that I suddenly realized that people die anyway. That was a concept that I couldn't understand. If we've got Medicine, why were people dying? If we got cures, why would people die? Why would so many people die of influenza, cause see, keep in mind, that was a period of time when a lot of people would die every year because of influenza-flu. Also, for me, that was a period of time when there was diseases like polio, and I had a good friend of mine, matter of fact, that got polio. And I couldn't understand, if we've got all this Medicine... Sol remember, one of the first things I was thinking was why wouldn't people share more? And I remember, I asked one of my uncles, 'Why didn't he find his own Medicine?,' cause I know they had cancer cures, cause I remember something about curing everything, and I didn't know what "cancer" was. Matter of fact, back then, they used to call it "consumption," and people died of "consumption" or some other name for a disease. My uncle, oh and by the way this was Tingaling Rogers, and Tingaling went through the Baton Death March during WWII, a decorated soldier like many of my uncles who were in the war at that time. But Tingaling had pretty much survived on what he could find, and he knew plants, he knew how to prepare plants, knew how fix them, knew how to cook them, he knew how to use them for Medicine. And he told me a number of times that's what helped him to survive. He'd always volunteer for details to go out and work in the hardest, hottest, worst work you'd do, working with digging up plants and cutting up logs, cause what he'd do is he'd scrape part of the bark off the tree for Medicine. And he'd know what kind of plant it was by something that he called "similars." Even to this day, Cherokees feel that there's a similar plant for everything that ails you. If it's your heart, it'll be shaped like a heart leaf, if its your liver, it'll be shaped like a spade, things like that. He told me, he said, "you know, one thing you have to learn is that when it's somebody's time, and everybody has their own time, it's not the Medicine that does the work, it's the person who has to do the work ... and even with the Medicine, you have to seek your own Medicine."

4) Appreciation
Persons at this stage begin to appreciate various cultural influences and broaden their identity to include these influences/expectations. They might begin to learn more about their racial-ethnic-cultural heritages by virtue of the perspective obtained from other cultural influences, but they still tend to identify with one group or the other.

Crossing the bridge.
When I would go back to the reservation, I would think to myself, wow, boy they're really out of touch, like they're not cool man. Gotta go back to Fernandina where things are happenin.' We were very much influenced by the black influence. At that time, it was called rhythm and blues. And so, unlike my friends in the mountains who were sort of country or rock-a-billie, I was kinda' rhythm and blues, and as a matter of fact I even used to enjoy listening to a lot of the old rhythm and blues stuff, cause they sang about something from the soul, something from the heart, and spirit. And I never put any of that together.

All of a sudden, my dad's business got into trouble. He decided that it was time for us to move back to the mountains. I was, by that time, about a senior in high school. You can imagine, I was in my last half of the year, my senior year in high school, leaving all my friends, of course, I had moved away before, so it wasn't that big a deal, but leaving my girlfriend, I had a girlfriend. That's pretty traumatic. But it's like, when we went to the mountains, it's like going into a fairy land, I don't know how to describe it otherwise. It's almost as though the feeling I had was that that was the real world out there, in Fernandina, and I was going into this magic land. I wasn't there about six months, cause I had just graduated from high school, I ran into a lady by the name of Mary. And Mary said that the Medicine Man wanted to see me, he knew that I was Oscar's boy, his grandson. I had no idea who the Medicine Man was. I had this image of this old guy sitting there with long gray hair, long beard, I don't know, I could not imagine. And maybe I was pretty much influenced by the cowboy and Indian era too. Cause the Indians wouldn't say much, they weren't too bright, you know, as portrayed in the pictures. And the cowboys had all the answers. Well lo and behold did I finally realize that the cowboys were a bunch of loudmouth know-it-alls, compared to another kind of knowledge and understanding that all of the sudden I was faced with. And the reason that I say that so strongly on the cowboy side is that cowboys had all the answers, they had all the control, they just killed everybody, they killed all the Indians and saved the little white lady with the golden hair, etc.

When I first met the Medicine Man, the first time I met him, I just saw him from a distance, that's as far as I was supposed to get. He just wanted to see me. I thought that was strange. Then maybe the second time, third time, somehow or another, I do remember him saying, "Yep, that's Oscar's boy, no question about it." Then, it was like, I'm okay. But I also remember him saying, "boy, he sure is white" (laughing). Now what was strange about that was that I used to tan real easy, and I stayed dark all the time. In Fernandina, they would make comments about me being a renegade. So they used to make comments about me being Indian, I just never thought much about it. And I thought, wow, I look white, gee, I've got a sun tan and everything. But you'd have to see this old man, he was really dark (laughing). He was really dark. Had that dark black hair, and still wouldn't talk to me.

Well, then Aunt Shirley introduced me to an old man, actually he wasn't that old at that time, I thought he was, he was in his mid-fifties and I thought he was an old man. Now I'm fifty-two, I'm as old as he was then (laughing). She told me he knew a lot about plants and everything. It was almost as though my whole world shifted. What I thought was really important didn't really mean a thing. I don't even remember writing that many letters to my friends, cause it didn't make any difference anymore. And I had this exciting new world that I was in. And then I went to college, and the only reason I got to college, and to tell you the truth, I hadn't planned on going to college, I was going to go in the Navy cause that's what my dad did; and I was going to go into electronics cause that's what he did; I was going to be a communicator like him cause that's what he did... But he [Dr. Garrett's father] said, "No, you're going to go to college, I don't know how we're going to do it, we don't have the money, but you're going to go." And I did manage to go on an Indian scholarship. They told me that I needed to study business administration, cause at that time, that's where the scholarships were, that's how I could go to school. But what I was really interested in was biology, so I took biology, boy I loved it! I would just try to learn everything I could. And when I finally had a chance to take botany, I was in hog heaven. As a matter of fact, there are two plants in the North Carolina flora herbarium that were actually new species of plants identified, that I recognized, that I found. Usually what they do is they name the plant after you, so I thought, wow, I'm going to get the plant named after me, but actually they named it after the professor (laughing), so I learned (laughing) real quick, boy I should've kept my mouth shut, and just waited until I was a biologist or botanist and had them named after me.

So once again, the plants became a part of my life. Now here I am, seventeen, eighteen years of age, and finally Mary came down one day and she said, "The Medicine Man wants to talk to you." And also, another Medicine Man wanted to talk to me too, his name was William Hombuckle. And William Hombuckle was the one that Shirley told me he would take me back and teach me plants. So about everything I ever learned about plants, I learned from either Shirley, or my mom, or William Hornbuckle. As an example, now here I was going to school, but I was commuting and working, but every time I'd get a chance, I'd run up and William and I would go up in the mountains. He had a "sang patch" he called it, it was ginseng, but he'd say, "Hey, let's go up to the sang patch," and this was wild ginseng, and that's the first time I was introduced to ginseng. I'd never even heard of it before. But we would walk, literally walk fifteen miles back in those mountains to get to the "sang patch." And he'd say, "Nobody knows where this is, you gotta be careful cause there's diggers all over the place." I didn't know what a digger was until I asked mama, or grandma. And she said, "Well, diggers are people who took for wild ginseng" cause they would sell it, make money off of it. And I thought, wow, why would anybody pull up the plants to make money? I don't understand that. I didn't have a concept in my mind of somebody pulling up these beautiful plants, just drying out and selling them, just to make money.

Anyway, we would go up the trail, and he would always take me what he called "the wet ridges" to get up on the high side and then come down on the dry side. He would always look for special plants, and he'd say, "Now these are special plants." I didn't realize this until, one day, I was trying to identify all the plants that I knew, by the time I was a junior in college, but it was about 65. Sixty-five doesn't seem like such a large number, compared to the Medicine Man who probably knew the use and used some 250 plants. But I didn't realize, I had actually learned how to use and identify 65 plants. Those were ones that I wouldn't necessarily use for medicine, but I knew the medicinal value of those, and how to put the remedies together. You'd never pull a plant unless it was the fourth one, and you would always try to find the one on the east side if there was an east side. For the north side plants, it was for certain purposes. If it was a west side plant, in other words, if it was growing in the direction of the west, you would use it for some physical ailment. And that's the way I learned the concept of the four directions.

The fact that four was a sacred number, I realized that because you'd always pick the fourth plant, that I would always leave three. And if you had an emergency where you really had to have a plant, and there was two there, you'd go ahead and take the one just for that emergency purpose, as long as there's one. If you had an emergency, somebody's dying, and there's only one plant, you didn't take it, cause what was more important, the life of that, or the life of the plant? So you'd have to run around and scurry to find another patch where there would be more plants. Now that never happened to me, but you know, that was when I learned that, as William Hornbuckle would say, humans were the last beings to come from the spirit world, and so, therefore, we were probably the most ignorant of all the beings. The smartest spirit beings were the plants and the animals, and there were different stages of evolution of development; and that evolution of development was based on spirituality, not on how long something was around. But I learned some very natural biology lessons from him such as, he would talk about "in the beginning."

In the beginning, the first existence in the spirit world were the plants. The plants were to keep the Earth in, and to make the Earth fertile, so that it could grow; nothing could live until the plant spirits came first. These were all the stories I learned about how important the human was on the scale of things, the human being the last one to come, and certainly, the one who had to be helped the most. This was the influence to me, I don't understand the attitude of some people who think that human beings were more important than animals, that they could take the lives of animals, or tromp all over plants, and it didn't make any difference. And I remember also my grandfather saying try not to trample the plant unless you get permission to step on it, because at least that way, you know that you're not going to harm them, and their spirits are not going to come back and harm you in any way. A good example of that is animals being shot. Grandfather (and my uncle Ting, too) would say that when the hunters went out, in the early days when animal spirits were still closely aligned with human spirits, and humans had to first get permission before they would kill them, and in order to get permission, they would have to do special ceremonies and offer tobacco to the fire, and say "I'm going out to hunt the next day or this evening, and this will be a special hunting time, and I'm looking for a deer, and the deer will bring meat to my family, and the bones we'll be able to use for certain things" and everything was used... So you say that prayer, and after you say that prayer, it was alright to go out and go hunting, and if you killed the deer, then that meant that it was okay. But if you killed the deer without giving thanks, or doing the prayers, then when you killed the deer, the deer's spirit, if it didn't give you permission, would come back you would end up with certain diseases. As an example, the disease of the deer would be rheumatism. I even remember my uncle saying, this man was all bent over and he was hurting, he wasn't old, but I said, "What's wrong with him?" and he said, "Eh, he's got rheumatism" and I said, "What's that?" He said, "Well, he used to be a hunter, and he was a hunter that didn't get permission from the animals, they gave him this disease so that the rest of his life, he'd be crippled and walking around like that..."

I had no idea that I would ever be thought of as a Medicine Man. That was the furthest thing from my mind. But I do remember, in going to school, some of the kids would tease me about my grandfather, who was a Medicine Man. My mother never called him a Medicine Man, she always said he's just a strong spiritual man. And even to this day, I'd say, "Mom, was he ever a Medicine Man?" but she said, "No, but he went to church, and he was a strong spiritual man, he knew all about hunting, he knew about the animals and the plants, he was in touch with Mother Earth, and he knew special things." Some time later, and maybe this occurred just a few years ago, I asked my grandmother about this, and she said, "Well, the reason for that is there was a period of time when Medicine Men were important people in the tribe, they were looked up to and recognized as being special and holy, and spiritual, but with the influence of the white man, what happened was, as modem medicine came in, the Medicine Men were looked down upon as having snake oil cures, and stuff like that" and lost a lot of recognition and respect among tribal members because of two influences: one, not just modem medicine, but somebody having something like this "builet" [pill] to help a person, or this special shot that would take the problem away, but also Christianity, religion, because, according to my grandmother, a lot of times, you know, they'd say the Medicine Man was doing bad things, whereas the minister or priest was doing good things, and that was a strong influence. So since my grandfather was recognized in the church, it was very important for him to be recognized as a "spiritual man." But I know a lot of people would go to him for Medicine.

The next thing that happened was that I was invited to join this very special circle of people to learn the Medicine. And I was the only "mixed breed." All the rest of them were full-bloods. And I was even told one time by William Hornbuckle, he was mixed by the way too, that he could never be a Medicine Man because he was a mixed breed. He knew the herbs and he'd get the herbs for the Medicine Men, and people would come him, but that he really could not call himself a Medicine Man because he did not go through the orientation with one of the seven original Medicine people. I think what made my apprenticeship different is that I did learn under one of the last original Medicine Men of the tribe, and that was Doc Amoneeta Sequoyah, and Doc Sequoyah was one of the old Medicine Men. I used to get teased a lot about that, people would say, you know, "He's an old fool, you shouldn't be spending your time with him, all he does is talk about the stuff in the past, we need to go forward and be modem."

And I didn't realize, all the years that I worked with him, even up to the time that he passed on, and I believe that was in 1987, here I went out on my own, I went in the Navy, went to Vietnam, came out and all of a sudden, it was like I was going to Fernandina beach again, I was going to get a job in modem industry and move out into the outer world. But I kept being drawn back. I just had this sense, and I had many visions come to me that I was to go and I was to study the Medicine, and that I wasn't going to be a Medicine Man on the reservation. I would really be one that would "bridge the gap," that I would be one to share, help others understand and appreciate so that we could bring the Medicine back. The idea was not to bring "the Medicine" back but to bring the integrity and reputation of Good Medicine back so that people would honor and respect and appreciate what the elders and the elder Medicine Men had actually brought to us. And if you think about it, people survived many, many generations long before "modem medicine."

5) Integration
Persons at this stage experience wholeness and integration through a new or renewed sense of personal identity which incorporates various cultural influences/expectations. At this stage, the person develops a secure, integrated identity with the ability to function effectively in both cultures. In addition, they understand the meanings behind various cultural values, beliefs, expectations, and practices of which they are a part.

You're this and you're that.
So those were my influences, and probably if I had one, or two, or three, or four values that would really influence me the most from the time that I was very young until today, it would be first of all, the sense of humility. I learned humility. I didn't learn that in the Navy. I learned manipulation in the Navy. So when somebody said well, you know, are you going to have your son go into the service so he can learn humility? No, I had never had any desire for you to go and learn manipulation. I figured if you could learn humility, you'd learn it by being respected and showing respect for everything in life. And if you think about it, I never spent much time teaching you these things, have you ever thought about that? Have you ever wondered why? What I was supposed to do is be very subtle about that because I think I had the fear, just like I was taught, that I didn't want you to be different. I didn't want you to (and the same thing with Melissa [Dr. Garrett's younger daughter]) be chastised, criticized as being, you know, different. I wanted you to be like everybody else, but I gave you very subtle influences to teach you things like humility... Honor, honoring things, honoring life, honoring animals, honoring plants, honoring everything, that's the next value. And the third one was respect?respect for elders, respect for all things. If you put those three together, those are pretty strong values. If you could carry those out, as my grandfather used to say, "If you have that, you've got it all, cause everything will come to you."

I think who I am, is that I truly am two people, matter of fact, Doc Amoneeta Sequoyah used to call me "Gagoyoti" in other words, "two people." In Cherokee, that's a way of saying, well, you're this and you're that. For me, a lot of my conflicts in earlier years were because I wasn't sure who I was. Was I Indian, was I white, you know, what was a mixture of a person, where did I belong? I knew deep down inside, I didn't belong with that class of people who felt that they were better than others. And I knew that the people that I came from, the Cherokees, there was something very special.

Conclusion and Implications

In his narrative, Dr. Garrett speaks of the way in which he learned to use his mind to create pictures through visualization, the importance of seeking natural ways, and what it means to walk a bridge between two worlds. Within this narrative, one can see movement through the stages of biracial identity development (personal identity, choice, denial/confusion, appreciation, integration), from the confusion of youth to the wisdom and integration of age through a continuous process of reconciling the values, expectations, and practices of two different cultures. One can see the influences of both the enculturation. of a traditional Indian way of life, and acculturation to mainstream values, beliefs, and expectations. One can see the strong influences of family relationships, stories, and natural approaches as Dr. Garrett reconciles his mixed racial heritage and the pressure of conflicting value systems in a gradual movement away from American popular culture (and media-propagated stereotypes) to a traditional way of life practiced by Cherokee people for generations. Dr. Garrett's narrative illustrates the importance of naming, family influences through the oral tradition, natural approaches to life and healing, life lessons in perspective and individual choice, movement between worlds (symbolic of movement back and forth along the bridge that connects the physical world and spirit world), and integrating all aspects of oneself into a unified whole in order to fulfill one's purpose of "bridging the gap" between worlds as the major themes that emerged in a description of his own identity.

The purpose of this article was to present the narrative of an American Indian as an illustration of one who has achieved a degree of bicultural competence by moving through the stages of bicultural identity development, and in doing so, to elaborate on the historical and contemporary context of a traditional Indian approach to the education (enculturation) of children in the way of the Medicine. Dr. Garrett is one example of an American Indian person who has had to deal with value conflicts and make a choice about who he is, what he believes, what he values, what he practices, and how he deals with the expectations of others/society. Dr. Garrett relates, through his narrative, what it means to him to be Indian through emphasis on the oral tradition of storytelling, strong family relationships, and a natural approach to way of life and healing, among other things.

By elaborating on the life-experiences of what once could be described as a "marginal" Indian youngster of the 1940s and 50s, one gets a better sense of the influences, challenges, choices, themes, and worldview of an American Indian individual who has managed to live, what for him is a "successful" way of life, in two sometimes opposing cultural realms. By achieving a better understanding of the self of one narrator in a particular social and historical context, educators, researchers, and helping professionals place themselves in a position of better understanding the context, and various idiosyncratic systems of meaning attributed to that context. This project illustrates the importance of utilizing narratives as a powerful form of inquiry into the subjective-level experiences, realities, and understandings of American Indian youth, given the many issues and challenges of achieving a meaningful personal/cultural identity.

In a traditional approach, as we turn to the life-stories of our elders and youngsters alike, we get a better sense of where we have come from as Indian people, and where we are going. We see the powerful influences of different systems of education, exemplified through mainstream American and traditional Indian values, beliefs, and expectations. We see the continuity of the Circle of Life in stories of images and experiences that flow from the heart, and we begin to arrive at a better understanding of where we stand in relation to everything around us. We begin to understand the importance of attending to the stories the meanings, language, experiences, images, and themes-of our Indian youth. And we begin to learn, as it has traditionally been taught to us by our elders, that education is a life-long process, just as a story unfolds, and offers the gift of its life to us.

Michael Tlanusta Garrett, Ph.D., Eastern Band of Cherokee, grew up on the Cherokee Indian reservation in the mountains of western North Carolina. Currently an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Special Education, and Child Development at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Dr. Garrett has authored or coauthored numerous works including the recently published book, Medicine of the Cherokee: The Way of Right Relationship.

The author wishes to thank Dr. J. T. Garrett for his willingness to tell history. A special thanks also goes to Dr. Kathleen Casey for her encouragement in the process of listening to the stories that people have to tell.


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