239647 “My culture, my family, my school, me”: Identifying strengths in the lives and communities of American Indian youth

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 9:30 AM

Tracey McMahon, MS , Health Disparities Research Center, Sanford Research/University of South Dakota, Sioux Falls, SD
DenYelle Kenyon, PhD , Health Disparities Research Center, Sanford Research/University of South Dakota, Sioux Falls, SD
Jessica Carter, BA , Graduate and Professional Studies, University of South Dakota, Kearney, NE
The majority of research with American Indian (AI) youth and communities focuses on vulnerabilities, problems, and needs rather than resiliency, strengths, and assets. Adding to the limited research which has examined AI youth and communities using the strengths perspective, this approach holds the basic assumption that humans are capable, competent, adaptive, and resilient. Via open-ended survey questions, we examined community assets and personal strengths in addition to community challenges and personal hardships as perceived by reservation-based, Northern Plains AI youth. The present study was conducted at a Tribal school in the Northern Plains (N = 95; n = 37 males; n = 58 females; aged 14.4-20.95 years; M = 17.3, SD = 1.47 years). A majority of youth self-identified as solely AI (85.3%), with small percentages reporting additional ethnic backgrounds. Not surprisingly, analyses revealed that the people in their lives, especially their families, are significant sources of strength for AI youth. Findings also indicate that AI youth have a positive orientation toward themselves and their communities, which was evidenced by the fact that youth identified more strengths than challenges. Somewhat unexpectedly, when asked what aspects of their lives and communities they would most like to change, a significant number of the youth identified they wanted to change “nothing” about their personal lives or their communities. Reasons for these responses are discussed in terms of the role of power and influence on AI youth's perceptions of their capacity to identify things in need of change and participate in the change process.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify various sources of strength in American Indian youths' lives and communities. 2. Evalutate interpretation of American Indian youths' qualitative responses. 3. Discuss application of American Indian youths' perspectives to positive youth development programs.

Keywords: Youth, Community Assets

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I hold a Master's of Science degree in Rural Sociology and am a research associate for such programs as photovoice, hutterite nutrition, and teen pregnancy.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.