HSM 250 Week 3 Written Assignment Developing Ethnicity
HSM 250 Week 3 Written Assignment Developing Ethnicity
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Date Created: 11/09/15
1 Developing Ethnicity Developing Ethnicity Axia College 2 Developing Ethnicity Developing Ethnicity Ethnicity is a term used by social scientists as an indicator of people’s cultural identity and heritage, apart from racial characteristics. (Schmidt, J.J., 2006) As humans move from early childhood through the many stages which end in adulthood, they define their own sense of ethnicity. Each stages offers opportunities and challenges which help the person form their own personal sense of self and the ethnic group to which they identify. Most often, events or circumstances clearly mark the strengthening or weakening of previously held beliefs that made the individual relate more to one group than another. When I was a young child, my earliest memories were of the traditional Native American culture which essentially was my life. I remember well my mother making fry bread, ceremonial dances, traditions, and absolute respect for my elders. The language of the Blackfeet people was heard spoken almost as often as English. The warmth of extended family within a community of Native Americans was comforting and safe. According to our textbook, from the work of Geertz (1973) comes the “primordialist” anthropological model. In this theory, he refers to essential and functional connections that the group values and assigns historic meaning. (Schmidt, J.J., 2006) These early memories and teachings mark the first of the stages of my ethnic identification. Early childhood brought many changes to the way I originally saw myself. My mother married a man who was not of the same ethnic group we belonged to; he was of mixed blood, white and Native American. Because my mother no longer felt that I fit into their “plan,” I was placed into the foster care system. I was taken from that warm, safe 3 Developing Ethnicity environment and placed into an environment that was foreign and very scary for such a young child. I tried very hard to learn the traditions and expectations of the white families who took me into their lives. I assimilated some of their values, but always clung to the teachings of my people. Adolescence is a time of upheaval and questioning for most people and it was no different for me. I was adopted into a Mormon family who was devoutly religious. I was forced to leave behind all traditions and learning from my Native American childhood, including Catholicism. I was expected to assimilate completely into the Mormon doctrine and live only their lifestyle. However, unlike most, I could not give up all that I valued and it made me more determined to maintain my ethnicity intact. I learned to play the game, but never gave up who I was. My determination was interpreted as rebellion and the problems began. As I entered young adulthood, I began having my first brushes with law enforcement. I spent many nights in jail and ultimately ended up in the prison system. The area I grew up in was primarily made up of whites and Native Americans of different nations. When I entered this harsh world, I became exposed to people from many different races and ethnicities. I began to see that it was not necessary for me to completely sell out all that I believed in to fit into mainstream society. There were many types of people, professional and criminal, who helped me to see that rebellion would not serve me well in life. My fellow Native Americans, who were also incarcerated, showed me the way back to the road which our ancestors and the Creator meant for us to follow. 4 Developing Ethnicity Adulthood held many changes for me as well; moving to California from Montana, marrying a woman who also held my values, and the birth of my son. I became more strongly connected to what my tradition roots were and taught them to my child. I had to learn to be more accepting of people from different ethnic groups and their cultures. The people were different, the geography was very different and my life had been changed dramatically by the entrance of two very important people into my life. As I reflect back, my ethnic identification never really changed, but the exposure to events and circumstances which could have changed which group I associated with certainly was evident. I have, and suspect that I will always identify myself as Native American. Our textbook author, J.J. Schmidt, also mentions another anthropological model called “the circumstantialist perspective.” As we review our lives, I think this model relates better since it addresses the different circumstances and events that make up our ethnic identity. There may be some relevance in early life to primordialism, but overall many of the beginning teachings are discarded or lost over time. In my case, I clung to those basics as a defense mechanism. I never knew which way life was going to turn, so I kept those solid, safe teachings as a backdrop to be called upon as needed. This assignment called upon each of us as individuals to complete Exercise 4.3 in Schmidt’s textbook. The events which I remember most clearly as having affected the way I saw my ethnic identity became clearer. Being raised on a Native American reservation by a nurturing community, placement into the foster care system, being adopted into a strict Mormon family, prison, and developing a life with my family and son were all pivotal moments when my identity could have changed. The strong 5 Developing Ethnicity traditional base that began my journey ultimately brought me back to the peace that I find in life today. Each of us must establish our own version of our ethnicity. By looking at the culture, heritage, and events that shape our lives, we become better able to stand by that identity. References Schmidt, J. J., (2006), Social and cultural foundations of counseling and human services: Multiple influences on selfconcept development. Boston: Pearson, Education Inc.