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Critical Analysis of the Development of Modern Aboriginal Societies

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In  From the Tribal to the Modern: The Development of Modern Aboriginal Societies, David R. Newhouse argues that the modern complex transformation occurring within the Aboriginal societies in Canada  is not actually threatening the existence and transmission of the Aboriginal culture. This paper will first explain how the historical analysis of  the Aboriginal identity alterations produces six major factors leading to potential changes in the self-perception of the modern Aboriginal societies. Then, this paper will demonstrate  the reinforcement of the Aboriginal identity through the process of re-traditionalization.   Finally, the paper will suggest that though the self-perception of the Aboriginals was to change under the growing impact of the Western culture, it still has the capability to preserve itself. David R. Newhouse convincingly demonstrates that re-traditionalization will to lead to the ability of Aboriginal people to proudly carry their identity and be aware of the heritage and traditions of their name in the modern world.

In order to emphasize the impact of the historical events on identity alterations of the Aboriginal society, David Newhouse takes the last 30 years of its establishment. The author does not simply list the historical events and documents that highly influenced the changes of the Aboriginal identity but shows the historical blend of Western and Aboriginal worlds.  David R. Newhouse presents the historical data in a form of a dialogue between the Aboriginal society and the Government of Canada.  The reaction of the Aboriginal society to the restrictions of the document known as White Paper galvanized both worlds. Eventually, the Aboriginal opposition resulted in the acceptance of the Aboriginal self-sufficiency and the creation of the RCAP (the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples) in 1996. David R. Newhouse emphasizes the fact that the last thirty years helped the  Aboriginal society to  stop identifying  itself as a victim of Canadian aggression.   Consequently, the Aboriginal culture started to perceive itself as an integral part of the Canadian culture and politics.

The historical background of identity alterations of the Aboriginal society produced six major factors leading to potential Aboriginal identity changes. Urbanization, institutionalization, cultural identity reinforcement, retraditionalization, textual transformation and self-governance altogether create a strong vector for the transformation of the Aboriginal identity . According to the statistics forty to sixty percent of all Aboriginal people live in Canadian urban centers and the population of these communities is constantly growing. All the social institutions such as daycare are formed on the basis of Western experience. Self -governance is based on the Western culture democratic principle "one man-one vote". The textual transformation of the Aboriginal society is dictated by the fact that the English language has become an integral element of the Aboriginal textual mode of cultural transmission. As a result, the historical acceptance of the Aboriginal inherent right for self-government did not only stimulate active development of the spheres of politics, art, health, music and education but  provoked vital changes in the identity of the Aboriginals.

The term "retraditionalization" introduced by David Newhouse  implies the "return to traditional views, values and customs" and can be referred to as the main identity change within the Aboriginal culture in terms of its integration to the modern world. David R. Newhouse sees re-traditionalization as the key factor for the explanation of the inevitability of the changes in the Aboriginal identity. Nevertheless, according to re-traditionalization this changes are possible without the cultural corruption of the Aboriginal heritage. All the social institutions such as daycare are formed on the basis of Western experience. Naturally, the Aboriginal societies will tend to reinforce their cultural identity to make sure that the future generations living in contemporary world with rap artists, Beverly Hills 902010 and Star Trek will not forget their traditions and heritage David Newhouse reveals the positive context of the retraditionalization throughout the fact that the Aboriginal society can be a part of the Western modern life and simultaneously preserve its identity, heritage and traditions for the future generations.

It is necessary to say that there is a belief that the Western culture absorbs and suppresses the minor cultures by affecting and transforming them. Aboriginal representatives attend school that are organized on the Western-based model and use Western curricula modified to reflect Aboriginal content and values. David Newhouse  provides the evidence of the positive identity transformations within the Aboriginal culture notwithstanding the strength of the Western influence. For instance, many organizations have blended the Western structure of a board of directors and levels of staff with Aboriginal decision making process (The Medicine Wheel). Re-traditionalization supports the notion that the Aboriginal can and will survive in the contemporary world by means of  identity reinforcement. Identity reinforcement, according to David Newhouse implies the fact that the Aboriginals will experience the pride of belonging to their community. The process of re-traditionalization will convert the Aboriginal community representatives into people who have dignity, knowledge and respect to their culture. Consequently, retraditionalization and therefore changes in the identity will guarantee a decent place for the Aboriginal culture in the contemporary society.

The only point that can be opposed to the fact that re-traditionalization will have positive impact on the transmission of Aboriginal culture to the next generations, is that it is very hard to underestimate the  influence of the Western culture.  History has provided numerous examples of complete cultural assimilations in which adopted lifestyles turned out to be perceived as culturally genuine. Millions of Canadian emigrants are unable to preserve their cultural values within their communities. This is just a concern, saying that the Aboriginal culture has completely different rights and position on the territory of Canada. Theoretically, the research provided by Newhouse is well-grounded and evident, but only the history will show the real empirical results of the process of re-traditionalization and its ability to make the Aboriginal society to return to traditional views, values and customs. It will highly depend on how the Aboriginal youth will react to the Western atmosphere and pressure in the next fifty years.

Overall, David R. Newhouse does an outstanding work demonstrating the course of present and potential Aboriginal identity transformation.  The deep and profound research presented by the author clarifies many aspects of  past and present of the Aboriginal societies. The interweaving of the historical analysis of  the Aboriginal identity alterations and the main factors leading to potential identity changes throughout retraditionalization create a strong evidence for the positive prognosis for the  transmission of the Aboriginal culture. The writing From the Tribal to the Modern: The Development of Modern Aboriginal Societies distinctly proves that the Aboriginal people have all the necessary background for the preservation of their culture, traditions and heritage in the modern world. It does not say that the Western culture has highly influenced many minor cultural formations, nevertheless the Aboriginal culture results to have the potential to achieve the reinforcement of the Aboriginal identity among its people.

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