Factors in the self-identity of members of the Congregation of the Great Spirit

Mary Joyce Merten, Marquette University


People we have labeled American Indians have been the source of much controversy since Columbus landed on San Salvador in 1492. The history of the first people in America has shown that they became unwanted in their own land. They were expected to assimilate, to melt into what became the dominant culture. Many American Indians held fast to their values, goals, perceptions, and modes of behavior despite overwhelming difficulties. As a result of their internal integrity, American Indians have experienced constant conflict as individuals, as members of groups, and as citizens of the United States. Methodology. In order to find information about the self-identity of urban American Indians today, eight members of the Congregation of the Great Spirit were interviewed at length for case studies. The tape-recorded interviews were transcribed and the data were organized according to four characteristics of self-identity and the four stages of Bochner's (1982) Cross-Cultural Relations Theory on the individual level and the four stages on the group level. This information was then incorporated into an adapted cultural grid as a means of simplifying the rich data for interpretation. The extensive literature review served as a background for interpretation. Characteristics of the members could be easily identified by checking the grids. Conclusion. As individuals, the members all suffered from discrimination, however the two members who came from well adjusted and financially stable homes were not devastated. They continued their education, worked, married, and raised families without the dysfunctionalism that "shut the others down" and caused devastating pain and suffering. This study showed that five out of the eight members interviewed had either had an alcohol problem or were members of a family where it was a problem. Another situation that caused great problems for the members as children was attending boarding schools. From this study it was evident that children first experienced discrimination when they started school. Discrimination was also the main reason for students dropping out of high school. Those who attended school on the reservation had healthy self-images until they attended high school off of the reservation. The members interviewed stated that the Congregation of the Great Spirit provided a place where they could go and be comfortable with their identity. The members found the strength they needed to relate to others and to participate in cultural events as well as other events. The study also showed that males suffered more and suffered for a longer time than the females. This information could be helpful to social workers, counselors and teachers.

Recommended Citation

Merten, Mary Joyce, "Factors in the self-identity of members of the Congregation of the Great Spirit" (1992). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9227131.