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Solutions for Native Americans: Turn to Tradition

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Tap into Native American Traditions to Raise Awareness of Difficult Issues

The tradition of honor and respect within Native American cultures is a strong force that holds the community together against negative outside influences. But sometimes, respect can encourage people to become too private and can work against societal bonds when it masks negative actions within the community that are harming its people.

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When faced with such challenging issues as child abuse, domestic violence and elder abuse, Native American leaders first must breach the barrier of discretion that is so important to the community. Fortunately, other strong Native American traditions create the opportunity to overcome the reluctance to disclose what goes on behind closed doors for the benefit of the greater good. Learning to lean on those other traditions is important in launching any campaign to raise awareness of various types of abuse in the home.

First Step: Spotting the Warning Signs

While child abuse, domestic violence and elder abuse carry their own special baggage, many of the warning signs apply in each case. Professionals in the medical fields are trained to see these warning signs, but others in the community may have more regular contact with victims and can more easily identify the problems earlier if they understand these warning signs:

  • Physical symptoms: broken bones, bruises, poor hygiene, dramatic weight loss or gain, lack of sleep, or bed sores with the elderly.

  • Behavioral changes: withdrawal, depression, reluctance to attend usual activities, desire not to go home, acting out against others (particularly in child abuse), lack of concentration, and alcohol or drug use.

Spotting these changes and others will be difficult in Native American society because victims strive to keep their problems private, but knowing the extent of abuse in the community is key to conducting a successful campaign.

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How Traditions Help

Getting past the issue of being guarded regarding family matters, confronting abuse in the Native American community can be greatly aided by emphasizing other important traditions such as:

  • Respect for All Life: Native American societies believe all life is equal, which means the abuser has no greater standing than the abused. Men, women, children, and elders all have equal standing in society and deserve to be treated with respect.

  • Honoring Elders: No stronger spiritual tradition exists among many Native Americans than the respect they hold for their elders, who in turn are responsible for teaching the children the vast wisdom they have gained in their lifetime.

  • Women Are Sacred: As life-givers, women create the foundation of Native American society and deserve to be treated with utmost respect.

  • Children Are Gifts From the Creator: Native Americans believe they have no greater responsibility than to care for these gifts from the Creator and bring them up in the traditions that have supported the society for generations.

If you can convince members of your community that these traditions and values surpass the value of discretion in the case of abuses in the home, you can begin to break down the barriers that keep people from reporting suspected cases of abuse. When the community begins to heal the disease of abuse in the home, they also heal a disease that affects the entire community.

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Organizing a Campaign

As Native American advocates strive to address these issues of abuse in the community, it's comforting to know resources are available at your fingertips. You don't have to address the issue from scratch. This is just a sample of resources you can find through PSA Worldwide:

  • Informational Edu-Sliders: These handouts are written specifically for Native communities on a variety of societal challenges and are a quick, simple way to address difficult problems.

  • Table Display: One tri-fold table display deals with all three issues of abuse in the home: Child Abuse, Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse.

  • Giveaways: From pens to drinkware to magnets, a variety of materials are available to hand out at events so your awareness campaign can penetrate in your community.

PSA Worldwide can also work with your awareness campaign to customize products to address specific needs. Creating an awareness campaign is a great opportunity to start the conversation. You can use this opportunity as a way to share information and provide examples to educate your community about Native American awareness. Give your community the tools to begin the prevention process, and this will plant the seed of hope for a healthier future.


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