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Children of Opasquia : a study of socialization and society on a contemporary Indian Reserve Robinson, Reva Leah

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to define the patterns of socialization on a contemporary Indian Reserve and to show how these patterns relate to other aspects of the society in which they operate. In particular, our aim was to assess whether the patterns of child rearing could be expected to produce individuals prepared to fulfil adult role requirements, or whether discontinuities existed between child-rearing practices and adult role expectations. In order to fulfil this aim, two categories of data were collected, one pertaining to the many facets of adult life, and the other to the training of children. These data are presented in the form of a fairly extensive ethnography with a focus on child-rearing practices. The most significant, and the most extensively employed method of investigation was participant observation. Both adults and children were observed in as many situations as possible. Interviewing took the form of informal conversation. Only two aspects of data collection assumed any degree of formality. These were the recording of genealogies and of general census information such as the sex, age, education, and employment of household members. During census interviews, mental notes were taken of the physical surroundings. In particular, the number, size, and functions of rooms, and the amount, condition, and functions of furniture and appliances were noted. An analytical tool was devised to assist in the organization and analysis of the ethnographic data, according to the research aims presented above. This theoretical framework was based on those presented in works by J.W.M. Whiting and B.B. Whiting. Essentially, the data were categorized into manageable segments labelled Ecology, Maintenance Systems (including Economy, Social Structure, and Political Structure), Adult Personality, Adult Behavior, Projective Systems (including Religion and the Supernatural, and Medical Practices), Child-Rearing Practices, Child Personality, and Child Behavior. The data were presented under these headings and then the relationships between the categories of data were analyzed, the continuities and discontinuities between child-rearing practices and each of the other data categories being particularly noted. The conclusions were briefly as follows: In the Maintenance System -- Economy, Child-Rearing Practices were found to be consistent with traditional economic practices. Inconsistencies and discontinuities were evident, however, between child-rearing practices and modern economic role expectations. These present-day expectations included the roles of wage-earner and of Band administrator. The patterns of formal education were also found to be discontinuous with the roles which children would be required to fulfil as adults. Although changes were found to be occurring in education patterns, they appeared to emanate from the children themselves, manifesting in adolescence; new educational goals were not seen to be stressed in child training. In the Social Structure, it was found that child training was not adequately preparing the young for meeting and relating to non-kin; here again there were inconsistencies between child-rearing practices and adult role requirements. It was found, however, that consistent changes were occurring in kinship terminology in response to changing ideas and attitudes regarding courtship and marriage customs; these changing attitudes were being incorporated into patterns of child rearing. In the Political Structure, it was found that child-rearing practices in no way prepare children for future roles as Band leaders. However, the adult leaders appear to cope admirably and perhaps no special preparation is necessary. Only independence training appeared to present problems in the political sphere, where teamwork is essential. One aspect of child training, discipline, was examined in detail; its interrelationships with each category of data were discussed.

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