How Including Indigenous Culture Benefits Youth Programs

As we strive to create a better future, we must value and include indigenous cultures in our youth programs. This is an ethical issue of recognizing and honoring the historical legacy of their culture because it helps build and sustain vibrant communities for all of us, including those traditionally marginalized or excluded.

Despite this, research reveals that many indigenous young people are not given access to their culture and traditions in youth programming. Furthermore, indigenous people have not been sufficiently included in the formation and design of programming.

This blog post will enumerate why including Indigenous culture in youth programs is beneficial and how it can be done.

1. Education and Preservation of Traditional Knowledge

Traditional indigenous knowledge can benefit everyone if it is meaningfully included in youth programs. Being aware of indigenous traditions and cultural practices is to empower indigenous youth, building authentic connection, and fostering a sense of belonging.

As a youth worker, you provide invaluable service by honoring traditions. This can be especially important to facilitating the healing and supporting the well-being of indigenous youth.

Connecting indigenous youth to their roots offer honor to their ancestors’ traditions and practices, encouraging self-expression and creativity in new ways while supporting positive development.

2. Empowerment of Diverse Communities

Research shows that program participants who feel a sense of community acceptance, connection, and belonging perform better academically and socially. This is particularly true for marginalized communities and cultures.

Minority communities have long experienced the burden of systemic oppression and intergenerational trauma. Through inclusive youth programs, they can address their challenges within safe and supported environments tailored to their cultural needs. Culturally inclusive youth workers can support positive and meaningful dialogue related to inclusion, diversity, and cultural understanding.

When youth program spaces are culturally diverse, inclusive, and representative of the richness of culture and traditions, young people are empowered to be their authentic selves and better understand the world around them.

3. Improved Intercultural Understanding

Youth worker training to improve intercultural competency is key. Including indigenous culture in youth programs creates an environment where young people can learn about intercultural understanding and collaborate across cultures. This helps young people develop empathy for different perspectives and recognize that there are always multiple points of view.

This type of learning can help create a global consciousness that combines different cultures and values, allowing youth to gain respect for others while also maintaining their cultural identity.

For instance, intercultural awareness training may include cultural identity, communication styles, and intercultural negotiation. Youth workers can also discuss the role of religion in different cultures and allow young people to learn how to recognize stereotyping and racism, as well as adapt their behavior when working with people from other backgrounds.

4. Positive Impact on Mental Health

Exposure to indigenous culture has far-reaching implications in positively influencing youth's mental health. This connection provides them with an understanding of how their beliefs and values align with society, imbuing a valuable identity in which they can clearly visualize themselves as treasured members of a larger community.

Going beyond this, some indigenous cultures maintain a nature-oriented behavior that further encourages peace of mind and relaxation, specifically for those individuals already undergoing psychological difficulties.

Together, these aspects present significant potential resources for helping to battle mental health challenges among young people.

5. Increased Sense of Identity

Including indigenous culture in youth programs can also help develop a strong identity for young people. When indigenous youth have access to their cultural legacy, they learn to understand their history and the importance of their heritage. This knowledge enables them to affirm their beliefs, values, worldviews, and cultural practices while connecting them to a larger community.

Intercultural training programs are a great way to help youth workers understand how to nurture these aspects of identity formation, bridging generational gaps and strengthening relationships between youth and their ancestors.

Learning about the history and culture of one's people can help young individuals better understand their purpose as members of a larger society.

Final Thoughts

These facts highlight the importance of honoring and including indigenous cultures in youth programming. The benefits are numerous, both ethically and practically, as this positive change provides a more equitable platform for everyone.

Every youth worker can learn how to improve their own understanding and appreciation of cultural differences. This is vital to positive youth development.

If you are in the youth work industry and seeking ways to foster intercultural understanding, look no further than Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA). Our nonprofit membership organization provides unparalleled training and resources that have been specifically designed with the intention of creating more inclusion for young people and empowering them at the same time!

Contact us today to learn how we can help you improve your intercultural engagement.

Paul Meunier is the executive director of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA), a non-profit association of youth-serving organizations. We're your source for exceptional, affordable, personal and professional online learning via The Professional Youth Worker.  Join us!