Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Social Work

First Advisor

Sanders, Sara

First Committee Member

Bern-Klug, Mercedes

Second Committee Member

Butcher, Howard K

Third Committee Member

Campbell, Mary

Fourth Committee Member

Rand, Jacki

Fifth Committee Member

Saunders, Jeanne


Indigenous women experience intimate partner violence (IPV) at a disproportionate and epidemic rate. A common thread among indigenous women's experiences is that of colonization, which has been linked to both IPV and other social ills. Many tools of domination and control used throughout colonization to subjugate and oppress indigenous peoples are consistent with the tactics of power and control used in IPV. Given the distinct history of colonization along with the absence of research on indigenous women from the Southeastern portion of the United States, the purpose of this critical ethnography was to understand the culture and context of IPV for women from a Southeastern tribe across the life course.

Because they complimented and supplemented each other in their ability to increase understanding about indigenous women' experiences with IPV, critical theory, historical trauma, life course theory, and resilience theory guided this qualitative inquiry. Paulo Freire's vision of critical theory was used to conceptualize this dissertation within the specific historical context. Using Carspecken's critical ethnographic method, the relevant data collected for this study included 28 participant observation sessions with indigenous community members and 28 life histories with indigenous women. Data analysis followed Carpsecken's method of reconstructive analysis.

The patterns of power and domination at the societal, community, and interpersonal levels were identified with the broader beliefs that might perpetuate IPV across generations. Results included key factors within the specific historical context of indigenous women that had salient linkage to IPV. The potential symptoms of historical loss and trauma, including alcohol abuse, IPV, and family breakdown, were highlighted. Women's emergent pattern of violence that occurred across the life course was delineated within the culturally specific family structure. Women's perceptions of experiences with the formal and informal support systems were explored. Likewise, the various coping strategies of women who experienced IPV were identified along with the culturally specific protective and risk factors across multiple levels. Women's suggestions for emancipation from oppression were highlighted along with the implications for social work practice and policy.


Critical Theory, Domestic Violence, Ethnography, Indigenous, Intimate partner violence, Native Americans


x, 335 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 315-335).


Copyright 2013 Catherine Elizabeth Burnette