Colonization and Cultural Attachment

Excerpt from
Developing a Culturally Restorative Approach to Aboriginal Child and Youth Development: Transitions to Adulthood  

Culture plays a major role in determining family, gender, and occupational roles; it also greatly influences interpersonal communication within the family and community. The developmental tasks of minority youth are far more challenging, as these youth must adapt to at least two cultures; their minority culture and the culture of larger society.

"This implies the development of knowledge, skills, and understanding in at least two cultures; while the youth retains his/her original cultural identity, they become adept at interfacing with the mainstream culture" (Pumariega et. al., 2005, p. 541).

Therefore, minority youth are challenged from school age to incorporate various cultural perspectives. As a result, identity for Aboriginal children must be considered with the understanding of adaption to worldviews; however, the core of Aboriginal identity must continue to be developed (Simard and Blight, 2011). 

It is interesting to me to find the need to discuss "cultural interface theory" as a significant part to seeking attachment to culture.  Often times we in social helping positions, forget (or we do not know) the need to have cultural interface philosophies in our service practices. 

For example, in working with Indigenous children why do we only offer them services from one helping paradigm?  Are we not infact, participating in their cultural victimization because we are not giving it to them as their primary helper.  Colonization has left that legacy for us as a people, we were forced to believe there is only one way of knowing ... and only one way of doing.  This of course is a lie ... Indigenous ways of knowing and being are alive and well in our communities; however we have not brought them out as a primary service for our children. 

Yunkaporta & McGinty (2009) discussed the importance of the "dynamic interface" - a trinity of sorts, which includes traditional knowledge, non-indigenous knowledge, and the dynamic interface that creates contemporary knowledge for ourselves and our children.  We must begin to understand when working with Indigenous people, that there is always a cultural core ... one that will expand and evolve over time.  And this is what the elders have told us about cultural attachment and colonization.

Thank you.

Cultural Attachment ... where does it originate from?

Is it in our DNA?
Where is cultural attachment's foundation?  Is it in our DNA ... Is it in our genes ... Is it in our blood memory?  Is it genetic?  How do we as Indigenous people connect to our culture? 

Hey you ... Indigenous one ...You know what I am talking about, you have felt it.  There are times in person's life when they thirst for the learning of their culture.  They thirst for that connection to the people ... to the land ... to the ancestors ... the ceremonies ... or to the language ... they seek it out and want to be a part of it.  To be a part of the culture. 

But what exactly is that?  Why do we want to connect to it and how do we do it?

The start ...

Cultural Attachment Theory:

I gotta say this is going to be a spiritual journey for me, and right now that is exactly what I need.  Creating this theory really evolved from the teaching I have received most of my life, from my grandparents, my mom and dad, and my niwaye'e.  These people have taught me the importance of culture, and at times this process has been transformational.  I am praying that it will be ...

I have completed my first chapter of my dissertation.  It begins with a literature review on colonization, decolonization, culture, attachment, identity, and development.  Then it moves into Indigenous research methodologies.  I am hoping to do the research in Treaty #3 area, and work with the people to define actually what cultural attachment theory is. 

You see I have this belief, that there is this point when we as Indigenous people thirst for the culture.  When we come to ceremony or when we come to elders, we are ready to begin to understand our purpose here on Turtle Island.  It might not be purpose, but it might be a need ... something inside of us that wants or need to be close to that sacredness within our own Indigenous culture. 

I have often talked about attachment theory ... where we attach to our mothers, our fathers, our aunties or uncles, or our grandparents.  We bond ... we attach to them.  We seek something ... and if we are lucky they give it to us.  What I know about the culture (for Indigenous people) is that we seek it sometimes, and we attach to it ... WHAT IS IT ... and WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE.  How does it happen.  This is what I want to determine in my research.   

What is cultural attachment theory?

First Cultural Attachment Experience

The first cultural attachment experience I had was with the Thunder Bay Friendship Center. I often talk about them when I am doing a presentation on cultural attachment because they were a program that brought about cultural teachings to me. I was in their little eagles program. I was also a dancer and a part of the Lions dance troupe. This program involved regalia making, drumming, singing, dancing, cultural teachings, and most of all living in a cultural way.

I really appreciated this program in an urban area as they promoted and instill the Anishinaabe in me.  Some of the programs that are of interest to me are ones such as this.  Cultural is so important to our way of life, and we have only begun to open that door a little.

Cultural Attachment Theory:

Cultural Attachment Theory: Cultural Attachment Theory: "Cultural Attachment Theory Excerpts from “ Developing a Culturally Restorative Approach to Aboriginal Child and Youth Development: Transitio..."

Cultural Attachment Theory

Excerpts from “Developing a Culturally Restorative Approach to Aboriginal Child and Youth Development: Transitions to Adulthood”
© Estelle Simard, MSW, Doctoral Candidate – Education, 2011
© Shannon Blight, MSW, 2011

Cultural attachment is a philosophy, which encapsulates how an individual bonds to his or her culture.  Cultural attachment creates a direct spiritual force, where the bond begins, develops, and evolves for the individual.  In Anishinaabemowin, cultural attachment is expressed as wiidamaagowiziwinan.  This means the deep connection between the individual and their spiritual connection to their Creator through his or her access to cultural structure.  Cultural attachment is a life-giving philosophy, as it instills life force energy into an individual. 

Cultural attachment has remained in Aboriginal worldview because as Aboriginal people there exists the genetic memory of the ancestors, this is called gichi Anishinaabe aadizokaan(an) / gagiikwewewin(an).  This genetic memory is the spirit of Aboriginal people.  Cultural attachment is built on the principle that cultural memory is carried in an Aboriginal’s DNA.  This cultural memory becomes active or alive, and inspires connection to the spirit.  Many people feared that historical effect and colonization has eroded the cultural memory of the Aboriginal people, but they cannot be further from the truth.  The truth is that cultural memory, connection to that memory, and its subsequent cultural attachment has never left the people, it has only waited to be awakened.

Simard (2009) discussed cultural attachment theory as a champion to culturally restorative practice.  Originally, attachment theory was deconstructed from an Aboriginal perspective, wherein, philosophies, theories, application, research, and practice was analyzed through the lens of Aboriginal worldview.  The intent was to understand this key children’s mental health and child welfare driver and its impact on Aboriginal children and youth.  The result of this analysis was the development of a new attachment theory called cultural attachment theory.  The conceptual framework was not to discredit or minimize attachment theory but to say, attachment theory by itself has not worked for Aboriginal people.  Cultural attachment theory is built upon an existing framework, which supports Aboriginal cultural structure.  Cultural attachment can reinforce cultural structure processes in the healthy development of Aboriginal children.  Cultural attachment theory seeks to secure knowledge of family, extended family, community, and Nation and their relationship to each other and the world.  Cultural attachment theory is the natural resiliencies, which exist within the Aboriginal cultural structures, which are supported by the roles inherent in raising a child of the Creator.  Cultural attachment theory provides an Aboriginal child with the ability to have a secure base in which he or she can explore the world.  More specifically, cultural attachment theory provides the individual with cultural support, via the structures to successful transition to adulthood.  Cultural attachment theory promotes the affectionate bond between a child and his family that endures over time and space throughout one’s lifetime.  Further, cultural attachment theory in application is the systematic embracing of the Aboriginal culture and matching of services to meet the cultural needs of the Anishinaabe child.