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Working Effectively with Tribal Governments

Cultural Orientation and Working with Tribal Governments

Native man and federal official holding a commemorative award

Cultural Orientation and Tips for Working More Effectively with Tribal Governments

Module Objectives

Although Native Americans may share many attributes in their values, way of life, and historic and present-day circumstances, each tribe is unique.

Generally, the term "Native American" includes both American Indians of the lower 48 states and Alaska Natives.

This module is intended to help you to understand and appreciate Native American cultures and to develop skills for effective cross-cultural communication. Only direct interactions, experience, and personal relationships with Native Americans can really build this understanding and appreciation.

In this module, you will gain a basic understanding of:

  • The importance of cultural factors.
  • Skills for cross-cultural communication.
  • Important and practical steps for working more effectively with tribes.

What is Culture?

Culture could be described as "the way of life" of a people. Culture includes a vast array of behaviors and beliefs. Critical cultural factors may differ greatly from culture to culture. Factors that should be considered when interacting with Native Americans include, but are not limited to:

  • History, from a tribe's own perspective.
  • Traditional values and attitudes, including the tribe's relationship with its homelands and social etiquette.
  • Spirituality, such as ceremonies, rituals, sacred objects and places, and beliefs.
  • Societal structure, including bands, clans and other kinship relations, gender roles, and the position of elders and children within the tribe.
  • Governmental structures, protocols and laws, including traditional and westernized models.
  • Language, which includes spoken, written, and non-verbal communications.



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