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Cultural Practices in American Indian Prevention Programs

NCJ Number
Juvenile Justice Volume: 7 Issue: 2 Dated: December 2000 Pages: 20-30
Ruth Sanchez-Way; Sandie Johnson
Date Published
December 2000
11 pages
American Indians can create more effective substance abuse prevention programs by combining ethnic and cultural components with other proven prevention strategies.
Culture is essentially the framework in which childhood socialization occurs. Research shows that strong cultural identification makes adolescents less vulnerable to risk factors for drug use and more able to benefit from protective factors than adolescents who lack this identification. Although the effect of culture on substance use is not direct, culture acts in combination with family, personality, or other influences. Powerful testimony from individual American Indians is in accordance with a 1989 youth survey, indicating American Indian adolescents who identify with Indian culture are less likely to be involved in alcohol use than those who lack this sense of identity. Successful prevention efforts in tribal communities build bicultural competence in youth and operate simultaneously on several levels. These multilevel interventions are created and implemented by the community, not developed outside the culture. The most important task that funding agencies can undertake is to help communities develop a plan and action steps to implement their ideas, keeping in mind both the culture and the prevention principles that have proven effective. This article outlines the components of a multilevel cultural intervention in the areas of family, peers, ceremony and ritual, spirituality, and communities. 2 figures and 8 notes