Academic journal article Fathering

American Indian Fathering in the Dakota Nation: Use of Akicita as a Fatherhood Standard

Academic journal article Fathering

American Indian Fathering in the Dakota Nation: Use of Akicita as a Fatherhood Standard

Article excerpt

This paper explores American Indian fathering in the Dakota nation with an emphasis on cultural accuracy. Focus groups and census data suggest father absence is a major problem and that efforts should provide positive male role models. Life course and generative fathering theories inform this discussion and fit well with Dakota culture. Factors leading to diminished male roles are discussed and empirical and applied suggestions provided. Since family setting and structure differs significantly from previous generations, adaptation is critical for fathers who wish to provide effective parenting. Historical Akicita (male warrior societies) roles of providing, protecting, and bringing honor are discussed as a model for Dakota fathering with a call for men to adopt Akicita standards in their paternal responsibilities.

Keywords: fathering, fatherhood, American Indian family, Akicita, Dakota nation, standard


Akicita are the most underdeveloped, underutilized resource[s] we have across Indian country. (Bill Iron Moccasin)

That fathers are essential in the lives of children is one of the more well-documented aspects of social science. Extensive reviews have been proffered elsewhere (Blankenhorn, 1996, Horn & Sylvestor, 2002; Marsiglio, Amato, & Day, 2000) and include emphases on fathers' roles and family relationships (Booth & Crouter, 1998; Lamb, 1997; Parke, 2002), responsible fathering (Doherty, Kouneski, & Erickson, 1998), attachment bonds (Brotherson, Dollohite, & Hawkins, 2005), the impact of father absence (Popenoe, 1996), and low-income, unmarried fathers (MacLanahan & Garfinkel, 1999) to name a few. Some of the work is addressed to general audiences (Brotherson & White, 2005) while other work targets researchers and public policy analysts (Brotherson & White, 2002; Day & Lamb, 2004; Tamis-LeMonda, & Cabrera, 2002). The fathering field continues to burgeon with efforts to articulate the impact involved fathers have on the lives of their children in a variety of settings (Brotherson & White, 2002, 2005) and cultures (Day & Lamb, 2004). Although this impact has been studied in majority and minority populations (Marsiglio, Amato, & Day, 2000), American Indian fatherhood, which reflects some of the highest rates of father absence in the country, has received little attention and provides the impetus for this paper.

This undermined role increases the likelihood that American Indian children will grow up in an uninvolved or absent father home. The loss of male influence in American Indian life can be traced to a loss of cultural practices and traditions. Rituals and traditional practices (or their loss through colonization and subjugation) have a tremendous influence in helping men gain a sense of identity and purpose. The vision quest, for example, was a historical Lakota rite of passage that helped make a young man "useful" to his family. Luther Standing Bear said that "every Lakota boy became a hunter, scout, or warrior"--once the three most important men's roles in Lakota society (Martinez, 2004, p. 88). He tied these roles to the vision quest, calling it one of the most significant ways for a man to "learn about one's calling." Though practitioners advocate preservation of cultural practices and traditions, the fulfillment of male roles is noticeably absent in many American Indian homes today. Therefore, a call to action among American Indian men and fathers that promotes expectations of involvement and that brings recognition and respect is warranted. A similar call to action for all men has been made elsewhere (Horn, Blankenhorn, & Pearlstein, 1999). The well-known Lakota elder, Black Elk, came to understand his vision, after he went through his own vision quest, and the obligations it placed on him as a Lakota man to serve his people (Martinez, 2004). …

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