ERIC Identifier: ED399485
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Peavy, R. Vance
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC., Canadian Guidance and
Counselling Foundation Ottawa (Ontario).
Career Counseling with Native Clients: Understanding the
Context: ERIC Digest.
In order to discuss career development and counseling sensibly in relation to
Native clients (1), it is necessary to state four contextual conditions:
1. There is no generic Native or "Indian." The term "Indian" is a "white"
term. For Natives living traditional lives, there are many important clan, band,
and tribal differences as well as complicated family politics--all of which
influence career development and choice for Native individuals. Career
counseling with Native clients requires an unusually large range of cultural
understandings and an appreciation of diversity and uniqueness.
2. With regard to Native enculturation and self-identity, there are at least
four Native "cultural-self" definitions, each having profound implications for
A "traditional" Native supports and lives the traditional way of life through
use of foods, medicines, social organization, ceremonies, and communication, and
is happy with this way of life.
An "assimilated" Native supports and lives the modern, dominant society way
of life through use of foods, social organization, and communication and is
happy with this way of life.
A "transitional" Native identity fluctuates between traditional and dominant
society, and often exhibits dysfunctional ways of living. The transitional
individual is not committed to either culture and may be unhappy, uncertain, or
unaware of his or her own lifestyle. He or she is often abusive, substance
addicted, manifests low self-esteem and lack of personal stability.
A "bi-cultural" Native person lives and supports both traditional and
dominant society ways of living. The bi-cultural person uses both traditional
and dominant society foods, medicines, and social organization, and may engage
in both clan and nuclear family patterns. In contrast to the other identities,
the bi-cultural individual has reconciled cultural differences and is at peace
with reconciliation. If career counseling is to be at all effective, it must
take these differing life-styles and identities into account.
3. Career development for Native youth is seriously impeded by two
characteristics of dominant society schools.
Lack of attention, understanding, and respect on the part of school personnel
(including career counselors) toward the linguistic and cultural identities of
Lack of structural support or "Native cultural presence" for students who are
attempting to retain Native cultural identity. A counseling preoccupation with
the "self" of Native students as a step toward career development is all too
often assimilative and contributes to the creation of transitional,
dysfunctional lifestyles. Though unintentional, career counselors perform a kind
of colonization of the Native mind (Madsen, 1990) when they attribute importance
and value to academic, social, and vocational values and tasks as they
understand them. If career counseling and development is to make sense to Native
students, ways must be found for Native students to find and use their own
"cultural voices" in career exploration and to use their own life experiences as
building blocks for a hopeful future.
4. Training in "multicultural counseling" is not an answer for providing
sensible career counseling for Native clients for at least two reasons. First,
Natives are not immigrants. Persons who come to North America as refugees and
immigrants have an expectation, as does the dominant society, that in due time
they will attain full membership in the North American dominant society. Their
direction is clearly assimilative and contrasts absolutely with many Natives who
struggle to preserve their historical, cultural identity as an "original" or
"First Nations" people. Second, to "migrate" is to leave one culture and to
re-establish oneself in another culture (Bissoondath, 1994). Most "First
Nations" peoples are dedicated to retaining their Native cultural identity and,
in many instances, interested in developing a bi-cultural ability to navigate
harmoniously back and forth between Native and dominant culture.
DIRECTIONS FOR CAREER COUNSELING WITH NATIVE YOUTH
research (Peavy, 1994) suggests at least five ways in which career work with
Native youth can reduce racism and dominant society suppression of Native
identity and give Native youth more voice in the formulation of career
conceptions which are sensible to them:
financial and conceptual support for educating Natives as career counselors for
Native youth. Native community leaders and elders should have a say in the
composition of such training programs.
steps in school programs to ensure that Native youth can receive career
counseling from Native counselors, if they want it, or from non-Native
counselors who have successfully established credibility and rapport with Native
clients and with the larger Native community.
counselor education programs to include courses in Native psychology, language,
history and culture. Include "immersion" experiences in the Native community. At
the very least, counselors of Native youth should have participated in Native
community events and should have first-hand knowledge of the cultural protocols
typical of the Native cultural groups.
career counseling programs to include experiences and materials tailored to the
needs of Native youth; use suitable role models--for identity purposes and for
the basic process of career counseling for Natives needs. In contrast with
formalized, self-focused counseling based on dominant society education and
psychological principles, Native-appropriate counseling might employ, for
example, narrative and story-telling as a central counseling procedure (Peavy,
1992). Storytelling is a good vehicle for rethinking one's "career identity" in
relation to social, political, and economic realities, and can help counselors
and clients find ways to reclaim identities as members of a respected cultural
group. Further, storied counseling enables Native clients to explore ways to
navigate through school and dominant culture.
The contextual consideration outlined in this
paper provide a framework for career counseling with Native youth. It is a
framework which links Native tradition, community, and culture to Native
experience in dominant society schools and which helps Native youth construct a
personal voice and identity, yet, at the same time, learn to navigate school and
majority cultural life. This framework suggests that a career counseling
approach with Native clients can be constructed which respects Native culture
and promotes ability and hope for bi-cultural navigation and career formation.
Bissoondath, N. (1994). "Selling Illusions: The
Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada." Toronto, ON: Penguin.
Madsen, E. (1990). "The Symbolism Associated with Dominant Society Schools in
Native American Communities: An Alaskan Example." Canadian Journal of Native
Education, 17, 43-53.
Peavy, R. V. (1992, September). "Constructivism and the Practice of Storied
Counseling." Paper presented to the IAVEG Congress, Lisbon, Portugal.
Peavy, R. V. (1994). "Counselling First Nations Students: A Research Report."
Victoria, BC: British Columbia Ministry of Education.
(1) For consistency, I use the term "Native" in this paper without prejudice
to other terms, such as "Indian," "Aboriginal," "First Nations," and
(2) I am indebted to Wedlidi Speck for these distinctions. Wedlidi Speck is a
status Indian and member of the Nimpkish Band of the Kwakiutl Agency and is a