Since 1992, when the city of Berkeley, CA officially replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, it’s been a day to recognize and honor the continued resilience of Indigenous Peoples who experience the historical and ongoing traumas of colonization, genocide, stolen lands, harmful misconceptions, and systemic racism. It’s also been a day to acknowledge the continued existence of Indigenous Peoples, and to celebrate Indigenous contributions and culture.
The dominant culture’s perspective on parenting derives mostly from research done by middle class white men on middle class white college students and families, then extrapolated to all people as default “best practices”. This is one of the reasons it’s important to highlight and uplift parenting practices that existed before colonialism that were and continue to be undervalued.
To help put the spotlight on Indigenous parenting practices, I interviewed Lorraine Brave. She’s a consultant from the National Indian Child Welfare Association, an organization that strives to eliminate child abuse and neglect by strengthening Indigenous families, tribes, and the laws protecting them. As a Positive Indian Parenting program trainer, she trains parent facilitators to implement the program with parents in their communities.
I think you’ll enjoy our conversation and come away with a better understanding of the issues facing Indiginous communities in the U.S., and some principles of the Positive Indian Parenting program that anyone can use to enhance their parenting. Some key takeaways from our conversation:
- The Positive Indian Parenting (PIP) program was created in the 1980s for use with at-risk parents. Now, Non-native allies and Native parent facilitators alike, implement PIP with parents in their communities, preserving some traditional Indigenous parenting practices.
- The Indian Child Welfare Act came about in the late 1970s in response to Native American children being removed from their families of origin and placed in non-Indigenous families at alarmingly high rates, returning to their communities traumatized and lacking in knowledge of their culture. The Act stipulates that placement with extended family or the child’s tribal community be the first choices of placement for Indigenous children removed from their parents.
- PIP informs parents about the traditional Indigenous “old ways” of parenting and contrasts it with modern parenting, encouraging parents to choose what parenting style feels right for them.
- Research showing that Indigenous teens who have a connection to their ancestors, traditions and communities are less vulnerable to suicide, are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to have problems with alcohol and drugs.
- Debunking myths about Native Americans as “savages” and not recognizing the benefits of their peaceful and complex structures of government. Additionally, Indigenous people are still alive and thriving – though they are often spoken of in the past tense.
- PIP offers ways parents can be proactive and help build a child’s self-esteem through praise.
- Help children develop self-discipline by being honest with them, giving them information, treating them as equals and inspiring cooperation, rather than using harshness or shaming.
- View children as gifts rather than property.
- Values such as honesty can be instilled through the telling of stories, being authentic with your children, and taking their perspective.
- Nurturing a child is more than just clothing and feeding them, it’s talking with them, playing with them and getting to know them as people.
- All of the tools and ideas shared in PIP are offered as possibilities that parents can choose—or not. Certainly the hope is that parents choose positive parenting, but it’s also important that parents choose this for themselves.
- Anyone can use PIP practices with their families—it’s not appropriation unless you’re charging money for Indigenous cultural artifacts or intellectual property.
All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.