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Empowerment of North American Indian Girls

Empowerment of North American Indian Girls: Ritual Expressions at Puberty

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 480
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    Empowerment of North American Indian Girls
    Book Description:

    Empowerment of North American Indian Girlsis an examination of coming-of-age-ceremonies for American Indian girls past and present, featuring an in-depth look at Native ideas about human development and puberty. Many North American Indian cultures regard the transition from childhood to adulthood as a pivotal and potentially vulnerable phase of life and have accordingly devised coming-of-age rituals to affirm traditional values and community support for its members. Such rituals are a positive and enabling social force in many modern Native communities whose younger generations are wrestling with substance abuse, mental health problems, suicide, and school dropout.

    Developmental psychologist Carol A. Markstrom reviews indigenous, historical, and anthropological literatures and conveys the results of her fieldwork to provide descriptive accounts of North American Indian coming-of-age rituals. She gives special attention to the female puberty rituals in four communities: Apache, Navajo, Lakota, and Ojibwa. Of particular interest is the distinctive Apache Sunrise Dance, which is described and analyzed in detail. Also included are American Indian feminist interpretations of menstruation and menstrual taboos, the feminine in cosmology, and the significance of puberty customs and rites for the development of young women.

    eISBN: 978-0-8032-1621-1
    Subjects: Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments (pp. xv-xx)
  6. CHAPTER ONE Contextual and Methodological Considerations (pp. 1-25)

    According to the beliefs of many North American Indian cultures, the transition from childhood to adulthood is regarded as a pivotal and empowering, as well as a potentially vulnerable phase of the life span. There are innumerable illustrations cross-culturally of ritual practices that occur at and around the physiological event of puberty, and for girls, especially at menarche. Whether coming-of-age rituals and ceremonies are temporally linked to menarche (a clear-cut marker for girls) or occur over a range of years, the rituals that make up these events possess strong sociocultural salience. In essence, biological processes provide the impetus for coming-of-age...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Contemporary Youth Concerns in Historical Perspective (pp. 26-45)

    The overall focus of this book is on coming-of-age ceremonies and celebrations, their meanings and significance, and the perceived impacts of these types of cultural activities on outcomes of optimal development among North American Indian adolescents. Nonetheless, these practices of considerable cultural importance were severely undermined through colonization, and they subsequently disappeared among numerous North American Indian cultures. Prior to proceeding more fully into the topic of this book, we will consider the significance of this loss by examining the crisis of youth that currently exists among some North American Indian groups. High levels of social and behavioral problems can...

  8. CHAPTER THREE North American Indian Perspectives on Human Development (pp. 46-84)

    Throughout history and across cultures, humans have been intrigued by the particular changes that occur in individuals during the life span and, of interest in this book, at pubescence. Cultures have devised various explanatory models of the human life span, and implicit in these models are the beliefs held about human development in general and about pubescence and adolescence in particular. This chapter scrutinizes North American Indian views of pubescence and adolescence according to how they are situated within broader conceptions of spirituality, personality, and life span human development—all of which are indicative of a distinctive worldview. A worldview...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Menstruation, Cosmology, and Feminism (pp. 85-122)

    When it comes to the broader society’s understanding of the cultures and histories of North American Indians, including attitudes and practices toward women and menstruation, misunderstanding and misrepresentation are central concerns. Within the broader scope of this book on female coming-of-age ceremonies at puberty, it is essential to explore the underlying beliefs surrounding menstruation, as well as the feminine components that are incorporated in the broader cosmological structures of many Native cultures. Through examination of these cultures’ beliefs about menstruation in general and the earliest menses in particular, the significance of ritual observances at puberty becomes apparent. It was shown...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Historical Overview of Coming-of-Age Practices (pp. 123-191)

    The aim of this chapter is to provide readers with a greater appreciation of the diverse range of puberty and coming-of-age practices according to cultural areas. The content of this chapter consists of concrete illustrations in support of the beliefs about pubescent females discussed in chapter 3. This review is not designed to be systematically comprehensive or analytically scientific in nature; rather, the purpose is to provide readers with some substance to their understanding of the breadth of puberty customs. The review is compiled from a combination of primary source (historical and anthropological) and secondary source documents. As a secondary...

  11. CHAPTER SIX The Apache Sunrise Dance (pp. 192-258)

    One of the best-known North American Indian puberty celebrations for girls is the Sunrise Ceremony, or as it more commonly called by Western Apaches today, the Sunrise Dance. It consists of numerous rituals that, together, form an event that is fairly unique among the puberty rituals and ceremonies of North American Indian cultures (Driver, 1941). The Apaches, known as Ndee, or “the People,” are an Athabascan culture of the southwestern United States and are known for their observances of girls’ puberty rites. The Western Apache term for the Sunrise Dance isna ih es, which is translated as “preparing her”...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Interpretation of the Apache Sunrise Dance (pp. 259-301)

    In the previous chapter, descriptions of Apache cultural beliefs and rituals and their associated meanings were presented for the San Carlos and Mescalero Apache versions of the Sunrise Dance. A multiple-method approach was utilized, and sources of data encompassed participant observation and corresponding field notes; semistructured, audiotaped interviews; numerous informal conversations with San Carlos and Mescalero cultural experts and participants; review of existing historical and anthropological sources of literature; examination of physical artifacts; photographs; and existing videotapes. At the onset, the findings were organized according to chronology of events for the Sunrise Dance and the steps of the Ritual Process...

  13. Photographs (pp. None)
  14. CHAPTER EIGHT Contemporary Navajo, Lakota, and Ojibwa Puberty Customs (pp. 302-338)

    The two previous chapters contained detailed description and interpretation of historical and contemporary practices of the Apache Sunrise Dance. A depth of analysis was applied to carefully interpret the meaning and symbolism of the complex rituals that make up the Sunrise Dance. This ceremony of long historical duration was shown to be highly significant within Apache culture, with anticipated impacts extending far beyond the coming-of-age of an initiate. The present chapter continues in a similar manner with illustrations of contemporary puberty customs of Navajo, Lakota, and Ojibwa cultures. The customs of these cultures are embedded in ancient oral traditions and...

  15. CHAPTER NINE Broader Perspectives on Coming-of-Age (pp. 339-358)

    In the attempt to understand the historical and contemporary significance of girls’ coming-of-age ceremonies among North American Indians, it was necessary to engage in detailed examination of these rituals and their meanings. It is useful at this point to depart from this form of inquiry and consider the broader meanings and implications of the multitude of expressions of coming-of-age described in this book. Considering the prohibitive influences of colonization, it is remarkable that these events still occur in some North American Indian cultures. Clearly, many tribes continue to value these ritual-filled for events and believe that they are applicable for...

  16. Notes (pp. 359-366)
  17. References (pp. 367-398)
  18. Index (pp. 399-425)