Unraveling Cultural Threads: A Qualitative Study of Culture and Ethnic Identity Among Urban Southwestern American Indian Youth Parents and Elders

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We utilized qualitative methods to explore ethnic and cultural identity among urban Southwestern American Indian youth, parents, and elders. Twenty-four respondents ranging in age from approximately 13 to 90 years were interviewed in focus groups divided by age. Six major themes and seventeen sub-themes related to tribal and pan-American Indian ethnic identity were identified. Two important findings emerging from our study were that common ethnic identity constructs can be validated and new identity constructs discovered through qualitative methods. These and other findings suggest the importance of qualitative methods in better understanding cultural and ethnic identity. Of particular significance was the notion that the most salient and relevant identity constructs can be learned from the voices and perspectives of ethnic identity members themselves across generations, age, tribal groups, gender, and reservation and urban residence.

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