“We Raise our Grandchildren as our Own:” Alaska Native Grandparents Raising Grandchildren in Southwest Alaska

Jordan P. Lewis, Keri Boyd, James Allen, Stacy Rasmus, Tammy Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study explores continuity and change in the roles of rural Alaska Native grandparents, describing their importance in contemporary Yup’ik social life and structure. The study is distinctive in its focus on the experiences of Yup’ik grandparents who are primary caregivers raising their grandchildren in Southwest Alaska. Qualitative data were gathered using a semi-structured interview from 20 Yup’ik grandparents, ages 46 to 95, who raised their grandchildren as the primary caregiver for at least one year. Content analysis was used to establish a culturally grounded understanding of the role of a grandparent raising grandchildren and meanings of these roles to Yup’ik grandparents. Findings reveal areas of continuity and change in the role and place of grandparents in Yup’ik families and communities. Important continuities persist in the role of Yup’ik grandparents, who continue to be a vital resource within their families and communities. As in the past, the grandparent role is essential in passing down cultural knowledge, upholding traditional Yup’ik values and teachings, and facilitating development of a strong and healthy cultural identity among youth. However, significant change has taken place within Yup’ik communities as a result of Western colonization. Grandparent roles are also shifting and expanding as a result of these changes, as part of an adaptive community response to ensure the safety and well-being of youth during times of great change and disruption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-286
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology
Volume33
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

Keywords

  • Alaska native
  • Grandparents raising grandchildren
  • Older adults
  • Rural

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