Academic journal article Journal of Research in Rural Education (Online)

Plans to Live on a Reservation Following College among American Indian Students: An Examination of Transculturation Theory

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Rural Education (Online)

Plans to Live on a Reservation Following College among American Indian Students: An Examination of Transculturation Theory

Article excerpt

This paper focuses on American Indian college students and uses transculturation theory to examine factors related to self-reported plans to live on a reservation following completion of college. Transculturation theory assumes a strong cultural identity is fundamental to academic success. The author uses the basic premise of this perspective to consider an extension to its assumptions. Findings indicate that an implied assumption of the transculturation perspective is that American Indians closely aligned with traditional culture tend to seek careers in which they serve Native communities and more likely plan to live on a reservation after college.

Many American Indian reservations are in need of substantial and sustained community development when poverty rates, unemployment rates, and indicators of poor health chronically remain above national and state levels (Anderson & Parker, 2008; Cornell & Kalt, 2000). Tribal members who have the necessary professional and cultural proficiency to provide leadership are fundamental to the capacity building of reservations (Anderson, Benson, & Flanagan, 2006). The community development needs of reservations have led to innovative approaches designed to facilitate internal capacity building. Recently the Bush Foundation funded "The Rebuilding Native Nations Program" consisting of a cooperative effort with 23 tribal governments designed to encourage and train emerging community leaders (Jorgensen, 2007). Moreover, many of the recent capacity building efforts are associated with universities. For example, Humboldt State University, who founded the Center for Indian Community Development and the University of Northern Arizona, operates the Capacity Building for American Indians Project.

Many potential leaders, critical to community capacity building, are pursuing higher education degrees. Unfortunately, the college attrition rate among American Indian students has remained at alarmingly high levels (Brown, 2003). As a result, many prospective reservation leaders experience tremendous difficulty completing college (Huffman, 1986). Compounding this problem is the tendency for rural communities to lose many of their talented young people to urban areas (Carr & Kefalas, 2009). Nevertheless, there is debate whether the same push-pull factors confronting individuals from rural areas operate in a similar manner for American Indian individuals who often hold unique cultural ties to reservations and may not desire to pursue personal opportunities in cities (Huffman, 1986; Lee, 2009).

This paper considers factors associated with self-reported plans to live on a reservation following completion of college among a sample of American Indian students. The author uses data derived from a survey on the general college experience of American Indians attending a predominately non-Indian university in South Dakota to explore the connection between a number of independent variables (e.g., personal background, cultural orientation, nature of the college experience, and motivation for career after college) with the dependent variable plans to live on a reservation following college. Further, this paper examines an extension of transculturation theory. Transculturation theory asserts that strong cultural identify and affiliation are fundamental to the academic success for American Indian students (Huffman, 2010). Moreover, there is research evidence to suggest culturally traditional students are inclined to regard higher education as a vehicle to help American Indian people rather than a means for personal gain. Thus, an implied assumption of transculturation would appear to be that American Indians who are more closely aligned with traditional culture will be more inclined to seek careers to serve tribal communities and thus more likely to indicate a desire to live on a reservation after college. This paper will explore the empirical support for such an extension to transculturation theory. …

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