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An Exploration of the Self-Determination Construct and Disability as it Relates to the Dine (Navajo) Culture

By: H. Corine Frankland, Ann P. Turnbull, Michael L. Wehmeyer, and Lavine Blackmountain

Abstract: Recent literature in the field of transition studies emphasizes importance of creating self-determination supports to promote independence, autonomy, and quality of life in students with disabilities. Much of that literature, however, has not taken cultural and familial factors into consideration. A review of the Navajo family and disability literature indicates that most traditional and semi-traditional Dine (the preferred term for referring to the Navajo people, a term that translates in the Native language to “The People”) indicates that the component elements of self-determined behavior are relevant to and important to Dine people, but that the ways in which these are expressed differs from an Anglo perspective. While the Dine people value self-regulation and autonomy, they are operationalized more in an emphasis on the importance of interdependence and group cohesion above independence and autonomy. This examination of application of self-determination within context of the Dine culture and traditions illustrates the universality of certain aspects of self-determination while at the same time indicating critical need for educational services that reflect cultural, racial, and familial values of the student.
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