The different number of tribes ranges into the 1,000’s. The number of different languages and tongues spoken by Native Americans is even more ambiguous. Many different languages broken down further into different dialects. Despite all the various tribes, languages, and locations, Native Americans tend to be grouped together as one culture group.
The term Native American is commonly used to identify American Indians. It is not as well received by them. Given the negative tone that sometimes accompanies it. They have been called many things that they find offensive. Names such as, Indian, redskins, savages, and some even find Native American offensive. As anyone born in America, is a Native American. Most would prefer to be recognized by their tribal affiliation, as indigenous people, or First Nations people. This has remained a dispute not just between them and other groups of people, but also amongst the many different cultures and tribes.
Most historians and scientific research seem to agree that Native Americans arrived to the Americas coming across the Bearing Straits. The land bridge that was located between Asia and America. The belief is that the population of the Americas occurred in three migration phases. Native Americans arrived long before the Europeans. This is another area of inconsistencies. Native Americans are believed to have arrived in the Americas tens of thousands of years before the Europeans.
When speaking of Europeans arriving to the Americas, the general thought is that they are of Anglo descendant. England, Spain, and France were all settlers in the early colonization of the Americas. Even though Christopher Columbus is given credit as the discoverer of the New World, sailing over on the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. The fact that he is of Spanish descent is never really the focus. He is European, yes. But from Spain.
When the Europeans arrived in North America, they brought with them diseases (smallpox, influenza, and the measles). Not having built up immunities against the diseases, they sometimes wiped out entire tribes. This only helped the Europeans take over more of the Native Americans land
The arrival of Europeans to North America brought many changes to the way of life for Native Americans. Some good and some bad. During the exploration phase, things between the Europeans and Native Americans were pretty amicable. Once the Europeans moved to the colonization phase, things became very disruptive. Colonization brought prosperity and wealth to the Europeans, but poverty, despair, slavery, and death to the Native Americans. Tensions really started rising when the new settlers began enclosing property. The Natives were used to roaming freely where ever they wanted to go. The enclosures inhibited their free movement. Then laws were made that favored the Europeans because they were created by the Europeans. One major champion of the enclosure laws was, John Locke. Locke believed that “labor provides the ultimate basis for legitimate property rights” (Greer, 2012, p. 366). Simply meaning, that if you put in the work to cultivate the land and build it up, then you were the rightful owner of that land. Just existing in a given space, didn’t give you any rights to the land inhabited.
Even though trade was fairly good between the Europeans and the natives. When the Europeans began trading alcohol for furs and pelts, yet another problem arose for the Native Americans, alcoholism. Which still persists today. “Native Americans have higher rates of alcohol use, frequency of use, and increased rates of fetal alcohol syndrome, compared with other ethnic groups” (Szlemko, 2006, p. 435).
Native Americans are hunters and gatherers. They lived a very simplistic life with very few boundaries and ties to one location. They were nomadic by nature. Their migration patterns followed that of their food source. This was usually the buffalo. Buffalo wasn’t the only meat source for Native Americans. This was usually dependent upon the particular region they inhabited. In early North American civilization Native Americans inhabited 10 different regions: the Artic, the Sub-Artic, the Northeast, the Southeast, the Plains, the Southwest, the Great Basin, California, the Northwest Coast, and the Plateau.
Though Native Americans are seen as a singular culture group, they differ not only by region, but also by what ever tribe they affiliate themselves with. Culture, traditions, and beliefs also varied from region to region and tribe to tribe. One area of similarity, seemed to be religion. For the most part, Native Americans believe in animism and shamanism. Animism is the belief that animals and inanimate objects have spirits. Shamanism “is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered state of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with what they believe to be a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world” (Shamanism, n.d.). A shaman or medicine man is the facilitator of the ritual ceremony.
Colonization was great for the Europeans but not for the Native Americans. Not only were they being pushed off their land, they were being forced onto reservations. This began with the Indian Removal Act in the early 1800’s. It “ordered all Native Americans to be moved west of the Mississippi River into designated areas in what is now Oklahoma” (Biscontini, 2014, p. 3). There were many treaties agreed upon between the Native Americans and the government. The Great Treaty of 1722, Treaty of Alliance, and Louisiana Purchase Treaty are just a very few. Most were usually broken or usually just ignored and not enforced by the government because of some profitable reasons.
There were some attempts to include Native Americans as citizens. Of course, this was totally on the Europeans terms. “Forcibly bringing them into white culture” (Biscontini, 2014, p. 3). They wanted the Native Americans to assume all of their cultural values and beliefs and fore go their own. This made reservation life even more unbearable.
Reservations were basically open range jails. Native Americans were not free to come and go as they pleased. The land was poor and they were not allowed to follow the buffalo. Therefore, they were not able to sufficiently feed their families, further impoverishing them. Given living conditions and emotional despair “points to drinking as one reaction to the profound disruption of Indian societies that began soon after Europeans landed in the Americas and intensified through the years” (Tischauser, 2015, p. 1).
Alcohol abuse has long been a problem for Native Americans, ever since it was introduced to them from the European settlers. Even though alcohol abuse rates are high among Native Americans, it by no means is meant to imply that all Native Americans are alcoholics. Though sometimes this is one of the many stereotypes they are labeled with. “Indian cultural pride and solidarity increase, as more Indians themselves work for the Indian Health Service (IHS), and as sufficient funding becomes available, new possibilities exist for stemming the tide of alcoholism” (Tischauser, 2015, p. 3)
Core Function 4-Assessment: With the counseling profession making a genuine effort to relate to their clients within the client’s cultural awareness and beliefs, this is a very necessary step prior to any treatment planning. “The cultural and spiritual beliefs of American Indians and Alaska Natives, as well as the historical trauma suffered by people who identify with these ethnic groups, require special considerations to be taken in the treatment of addiction conditions” (Villa, n.d.). one must consider the historical and statistical substance abuse information as related to Native Americans. As previously stated, Native Americans have a higher rate of alcohol abuse and use. That being said, the client is still an individual and must be assessed as such. Focused interviews would be the primary tool used to assess a member of this culture group. Looking at the family dynamic, how does the client spend their free time, and any life events that may have contributed to the client’s substance abuse. The is also where you would assess the client’s strengths and weaknesses. The counselor must assess how the client sees themselves. What type of personality does the client have? Is it strong on its own or dependent on others? How do they see the world around them? Do they feel oppressed or hindered by society? How do they feel about clinical treatment in general? All these things must be considered prior to developing a treatment plan.
Core Function 5-Treatment Planning: Devising a viable treatment plan must be designed with client input. The client’s assessment will guide the counselor in the treatment planning process. Once learning the client’s strengths and weaknesses, the counselor will then know where the client needs the most work and what just needs to be reinforced. A treatment plan is only good if the client is not only able but willing to complete the treatment plan. The counselor must determine the biggest problems that may be a hinderance in the client’s treatment. Then set goals to eliminate the problems. The counselor must also understand that new problems may arise during treatment and must be implemented and addressed in the treatment plan. The ultimate goal of treatment is to treat the whole person and not just the symptoms that are presented. This will ensure a consistence in sobriety.
Core Function 6-Counseling: “Using traditional healing to address substance abuse and mental health problems alone or in combination with westernized approaches may provide a more holistic approach to treatment” (Villa, n.d.). The counselor must build a cohesive relationship with the client. At no time should the client feel that they are less than the counselor. The group approach seems most feasible. “Because Indian alcoholism so often involves group activity, approaches involving groups and entire communities have proved more beneficial than have private counseling and treatment” (Tischauser, 2015, p. 3). The approach can always be adjusted or changed. Whatever works best for the client.
The biggest surprise that I encountered during this research, was all the inconsistencies in supposedly historical facts. There are hardly any consistent numbers regarding the number of tribes or Native American cultural group, languages or tongues, or the length of time between Indigenous People’s arrival and that of the Europeans. Another thing that surprised me was my own lack of sensitivity or more like my lack of interest in knowing historical facts about my fellow Americans. I have never really given any thought as to how Native Americans want to be addressed. I didn’t even know that there was a debate about it. This is what made it hit me “American Indians derives from the colonizers’ world-view and is therefore not the real name of anyone. It is a name given to people by outsiders, not by themselves. Why should we use any name given to a people by someone other than themselves” (d’Errico, 2005). Only for the purpose of this paper will I continue to call them Native Americans. I also read somewhere that the question was asked, “why aren’t Europeans called European Americans? That is a real question to ask. Why does every other race have a precursor to American but the Europeans? They seem to impose themselves upon any group of people not like themselves. They wanted to “civilize” everyone. Mostly because they were uncomfortable with beliefs and traditions not like their own. I literally gave none of this a thought until this research project. Hopefully I will surprise myself further and do a better job of actually knowing who my fellow Americans are and how they came to be here.
This particular question is what help me decide on this particular culture group. Originally, I wanted to research the Korean culture but I couldn’t find any events near me within the course time frame. Even in choosing Native Americans, finding events in my area for the time frame of part two of the paper was difficult. It is still a little difficult because I will have to drive 2 ½ hours to one event and almost 4 hours to the other one. Fortunately, the events are very inexpensive or that would have been another difficulty. As far as my expectations as to what to expect at the events, they are high. I have seen some videos online and read about some of the activities. Pow-wows are very colorful and are very festive. Also, another area of embarrassment for myself. I took my daughters to the first event, which was a pow-wow. One of them ask me what the purpose of the dance was. I had no real answer. I told her something vaguely about that it’s one way they talk to their gods and sometimes they do it prior to a battle. For the next event I will be ready for her.