In 1937, Erikson made a field trip to the Pme Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to investigate the causes of apathy among Sioux children. Erikson (1963) reported on early Sioux training in terms of his newly evolving theories of psychosexual and psychosocial development. He found that apathy was an expression of an extreme dependency the Sioux had developed as a result of their reliance on various federal government programs. At one time, they had been courageous buffalo hunters, but by 1937, the Sioux had lost their group identity as hunters and were trying halfheartedly to scrape out a living as fanners. Child-rearing practices, which in the past had trained young boys to be hunters and young girls to be helpers and mothers of future hunters, were no longer appropriate for an agrarian society. As a con-
Chapter 9 Erikson: Post-Freudian Theory 263
sequence, the Sioux children of 1937 had great difficulty achieving a sense of ego identity, especially after they reached adolescence.
Two years later, Erikson made a similar field trip to northern California to study people of the Yurok nation, who lived mostly on salmon fishing. Although the Sioux and Yurok had vastly divergent cultures, each tribe had a tradition of training its youth in the virtues of its society. Yurok people were trained to catch fish, and therefore they possessed no strong national feeling and had little taste for war. Obtaining and retaining provisions and possessions were highly valued among people of the Yurok nation. Erikson (1963) was able to show that early childhood training was consistent with this strong cultural value and that history and society helped shape personality.
Was this article helpful?