In the video interview Doctor Ed Barker discussed what it was like to be part Native American, while not being able to claim any tribal identity, and the prejudices and discrimination he faced at times (Garzon, 2010a). Dr. Barker shared that because he could pass for white, he was strongly encouraged to forsake any tribal identity to avoid the stereotypes, stigmas, and even the lack of opportunities that may have been closed to him due to this. In listening to him talk about his upbringing though, several cultural values and traits that he encountered in his life and family can be identified as sharing common threads with values and traits that are seen in a Native American Cultural identity.
Dr. Barker shared that little was known of his Native American heritage and cultural identity as his grandmother, who was born in the late 1800’s, had left the reservation, and the way of life behind (Garzon, 2010a). Considering that this would have been around the same time that the boarding school movement was gaining significant ground, in which the goal of the program was to take away all parts of the Indian culture from the children, as well as to assimilate them through immersion in Western culture (McGoldrick, Giordano & Garcia-Preto, 2005), it was no surprise that Dr. Barker’s grandmother did not have a strong sense of Tribal identity, and perhaps had even a negative view of Tribal identity, that her feelings had lasting transgenerational effects, to the point where her son also had a negative view of a Tribal Identity, and discouraged his children, such as Dr. Barker, to claim a tribal identity as well (Hays & Erford, 2018).
Even with Dr. Barker’s father encouraging him to use his ability to pass for white, and to forsake his Native American Tribal Identity, is does seem like certain aspects of the Tribal Identity can still be seen in Dr. Barker’s and his family’s life. Dr. Barker shared that both his parents had only finished eighth grade, though they did go back later for their GED (Garzon, 2010a). This is consistent with the education levels often achieved by those with a Tribal Identity, as around Fifty-two percent graduate from high school (Garzon, 2010b). Another similarity was actually a positive, as Dr. Barker’s father raised him with values like respect, humility, honor, and decency (Garzon, 2010a; Garzon, 2010b).
Though Dr. Barker’s family experience with historical trauma led to his family’s views of acculturation into the white identity, cutting oneself off from a Tribal Identity is different out of place for a culture that can be so proud of its rich heritage and culture. Dr. Barker himself is outside the Tribal Identity norm for education, as through his higher education are aspects of his own self-identity that differ from a Tribal Identity, as under five percent of Native Americans ever go on to receive advanced degrees (Hays & Erford, 2018). Perhaps Dr. Barker’s grandmother leaving the reservation to be able to have better opportunities for her and her family worked out for the best. Though Dr. Barker may have struggled in having a sense of cultural identity growing up, not being forced to fit into the labels and stereotypes so many Native American’s have to face allowed him to achieve his life goals, and allowed him to break away from those preconceived notions of what Native Americans could and could not do. Even his father was able to go beyond what the normal ideas of Tribal Identity were when though he stopped at eighth grade, he later went on to receive his GED (Garzon, 2010a). In viewing some of the things Dr. Barker discusses, as well as the value of education with his family, we can perhaps see values of personal goals, the importance of progress, and planning for the future we can see how this differs from a Tribal Cultural Mindset, which focuses on group goals, and lives more in the here in now present day me value, instead of planning ahead for the future (Hays & Erford, 2018).