Native Americans and Leisure: State of the Research and Future Directions

By McDonald, Daniel; McAvoy, Leo | Journal of Leisure Research, Second Quarter 1997 | Go to article overview

Native Americans and Leisure: State of the Research and Future Directions


McDonald, Daniel, McAvoy, Leo, Journal of Leisure Research


Introduction

There is a growing need for a fuller understanding of the leisure values and behaviors of distinct cultural groups as society continues to be characterized by increasing levels of cultural diversity (Kraus, 1994). One group that has received little attention in the leisure research literature is Native Americans, the indigenous peoples of North America. There are a number of reasons why this fuller understanding of Native American leisure is important now, beyond the scholarly inquiry reason of satisfying academic curiosity. Many Native American tribal groups are involved in negotiations with federal, state, and provincial recreation resource land managers concerning the recreational use of tribal lands and resources. These land managers often have little understanding of the worldview of Native Americans and how that worldview may influence Native American leisure values and behaviors. This lack of understanding has led to conflict and other difficulties when trying to work together cooperatively. A number of sovereignty issues concerning hunting, fishing and gathering are active throughout the United States and Canada. Resource management controversies such as access to sacred sites within protected park lands have illustrated the lack of understanding the dominant Euro-American culture often has of the Native American cultural perspective (Rudner, 1994). Some urban and rural recreation agencies are trying to implement recreation program opportunities in Native American communities to address issues such as youth-at-risk, and are finding it difficult to bridge the gap of understanding between the Caucasian and the Native cultures. A fuller understanding of Native American leisure may lead to more cooperation between leisure agencies and Native Americans. And finally, the recent economic impact of Native American gambling facilities on reservations and elsewhere has brought increased tourism and other development (including recreation development) to Native American communities. This development is influenced by, and may influence, Native American leisure values and behaviors.

Our interest in this article has developed from our personal and professional efforts in learning more about various Native American cultures and how leisure fits into those cultures. We are especially interested in how Native Americans view outdoor recreation and the outdoor resources where that recreation may take place. One author is Metis, a recognized Canadian First Nation, and has a background in Native American Studies and leisure behavior. The other author is non-Native American and has a number of years of experience studying outdoor recreation behavior and resources. When we tried to begin a research study on Native American outdoor recreation behaviors and values we found that the leisure literature had very little to offer us on this topic. Since little leisure research has been done regarding Native Americans, a review of the leisure and leisure-related research appears to be warranted, along with a look to the future regarding research directions and methods that will be appropriate.

The purpose of this article is to present an evaluative review of the literature pertaining to leisure and Native American populations. Though leisure researchers have, in recent years, shown a growing interest in crosscultural leisure research (Allison, 1988; Ewert, Chavez, & Magill, 1993), they have paid little attention to Native American communities. Because of this lack of research in the leisure literature, much of this article will draw from the literature of other disciplines, and will seek to examine Native American leisure-related beliefs and behaviors through related concepts such as play, games and parks, rather than adopting the more conventional conceptualizations of leisure and recreation used in the field. Little empirical research was found even in related literatures, therefore much of the work cited is analysis based on secondary sources, case studies, and anecdotal reports based on the experiences of the writers. …

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