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Understanding of Indigenous Identity

Understanding of Indigenous Identity

Africans mostly live in peace with their neighbors, but it can also be said to be known for its brutal violent inter group and ethnic wars that have shortened the lives of millions of people. History has shown that the reason for this strife is usually ethnic or based on ethnicity which is channeled into violent demonstration and expression. The African countries are not oblivious of this conflict that is ongoing and have created laws to help identify and manage the conflict within their borders. The challenges to peace and stability have still not been eradicated. Countries of sub Saharan Africa have especially been a volatile mix of insecurity, instability, corruption and poverty and this has been a trigger to the struggle for limited resources across ethnic lines. I will be looking at using the theories of inter group conflicts to explain the potential cause of conflicts in this region and the possible options to help with conflict management and reduction especially in Nigeria.

In countries like Nigeria and South Africa, the government have not shyed away from taking bold constitutional steps towards resolving the crisis that have occurred in those countries. It has been reported that the basis for these conflicts is as a result of the multi ethnic groups that are in these countries which have led to deep rooted complex conflicts that have spread very quickly and resulted in full blown wars.

Using Nigeria as a case study, there was the Biafran war which started July 6th 1967 and went on till January 15th 1970. It is today described as the Nigerian civil war because it ended up being between the government of Nigeria and the secessionist state of Biafra. The war is tied to key words like ethnic, political, economic, cultural and religious tensions and division. The civil war is linked to colonialism and the amalgamation of the Nigerian north and south into one Nigerian state in 1914 by the then Lord Laggard the governor general of the country as appointed by Great Britain. There were a lot of differences in the cultures of the people in the north and the south and that created a rift in the union. There was then discovery of crude oil in the southern part of the country while the northern part of the country which was more organized controlled government and in turn the wealth that was being generated from the crude oil. The southerners felt that they generated the oil and should have more control of the proceeds of the oil or at least see the reward on their land and on their people. The southerners felt that they were being marginalized and staged a coup de tat to secure central power. This was not successful, a northern head of state emerged and the northerners felt empowered to chase southerners who were of a different culture and spoke a different language out of their environs. The way they executed this was to kill any southerner that habited the north and ship their bodies and that of their families to the south through the national connecting rail system.

The southerners retaliated by doing the same hideous acts to northerners in the south and this ensued into a full blown war. The country at the time of independence from the Britain had a population of about 60 million people with the Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo being about 70% of the total population and having different community organizational levels and practices. The Hausa had strict autocratic rule where the sultan had supreme religious and political power. The Yoruba’s did have a head ruler that did not have the same level of autocratic power, the Igbos however were on a different plane, the men could assume a position of respect based on wealth or social status while the other groups were tied to hereditary. The political system in the North and West allowed for better controlling tactics by the colonialist because they passed down authority through the leaders of the region, it was very hard to manage the Igbos who were more individualistic and believed in personal achievement even though they were still conforming to communal values and goals to maintain peace in their region. After the amalgamation, political parties were formed amongst regional lines.

It has been proposed by researchers that social categorization is the beginning of prejudice, inequality and ethnocentrism. What is social categorization? It is when people are classified into groups that is different from theirs because of certain markers like outward appearance, religion, ethnicity and things like that. They go further to classify the members of the group that they belong to as us, an in group member and them an out group member. They believe that the people in the out group are not as complex as they are, they believe that the in group members have a lot of similarities to them where they share the same values and norms and this would be considered the beginning of inter group bias which leads to conflicts (Brigham & Barkowitz, 1978; Judd & Park, 1988; Linville & Jones, 1980; Park & Rothbart, 1982; Quattrone & Jones, 1980; Simon & Brown, 1987). This was very evident in the ethnic divisions that existed in Nigeria, where they saw the other ethnic group as an out group even though they shared a unified country name, they were not experiencing equal footings and were constantly trying to impose their self identity while struggling for limited resources.

Social categorization leads to a self-identification also known as categorization theory, where the need to be seen positively induces an in group member to want to be seen favorably by the other in group members but does not really care about out groupers (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). Social identity theory describes how one identifies themselves and how that identity affects their everyday life and this could be their family status, their religion, sports membership or general membership to any group. This is usually related to the persons self-esteem and their general success in anything that they do. Members of disadvantaged groups play a pivotal role to collective social change. Self-categories allocate their in group members more rewards, they are more appreciated and are more associated with positive attributes. It is not confirmed if these attributes are due to out group devaluation and in group enhanced evaluation (e.g. Holtz, 1989; Rosenbaum & Holtz, 1985). Social cognition continues to recognize the collective pronouns that is used to describe the in group verses the out group like we verses them, ours, theirs, they, them etc (Allport, 1954; Brewer, 1979; Tajfel, 1970; Turner etaUl 987; Wilder, 1981).

Associative learning and classical conditioning explains that when these positive or negative words are paired with other words in the description of a group, they generate strong affective characteristics and descriptive properties of their own. Automatic processing for attitudes activates an individual’s attitude even without a reactionary response on their part, the in group and out group descriptors affects how information is processed, so an in group designator like us does have a positive connotation and affiliations that is favorable.

There is the option of interpersonal versions of intergroup behavior also known as interpersonal interaction of characteristic relationships like Brown and Turner (1981) did say the “intense intergroup conflict makes group members behave within certain group confines for assimilation and protection.

Prejudice is a negative notion about someone that is not based on any facts, reason or actual experience. Stereotype is also not based on facts, its a widely held view about a particular group of people. Discrimination is the effect of prejudice and stereotypes which results in behaviors and actions that deprive a group of equal opportunities.

Prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination develop as a result of these conflicts which have developed from the in group and out group paradigm and apart from the separation in Nigeria, where all groups saw themselves and their cultures as ethnocentric and thereby created an unequally yoked environment. Prejudice and discrimination are still very prevalent in our society today. Women do not receive the same pay as men and even in Nigeria there are cultures where women are to be seen and not heard. It is increasingly elusive though to measure prejudicial beliefs because people no longer want to endorse blatant prejudicial remarks (McConahay, 1986) Political correctness does not allow us to openly show this explicit bias that we might all have towards the other. Implicit bias is the unconscious hidden bias that people have towards another either group or person, this bias is uncontrollable and is influenced by culture, society and even family. An example of an implicit behavior or bias could be expressed in different forms.

Amongst the Nigerians where there is currently a population of over 100 million people an over 500 ethnic groups, stereotypes have been formed that affect people’s behaviors, like in the south western part of the country where the indigenous Yoruba’s reside there is the notion of dirtiness and promiscuity which is negative but there is also the impression that they are very exposed and educated. If an individual from another ethnic group is offered food from a Yoruba, they are most likely to reject and say they are not hungry when the true reason would be that they do not trust the offeror.

There have been test that have been created to measure implicit behaviors, the Implicit Association Test (IAT), it was created to examine the extent to which people relate to intergroup and explicit measures of attitude. The IAT uses stimulus words that are racially stereotyped or adjectives that have evaluative connotation and measures the responses of participants (e.g., Jamal and Sue Ellen). The IAT has been proven effective because of its large size effect and the fact people actually do end up providing their implicit thoughts that have revealed favoritism for in group members with regards to age, sex, race and in this case religion and ethnicity (Greenwald et al., 1998; Rudman, Greenwald, Mellott, & Schwartz, 1999).

Explicit behavior is the feeling that we have towards an object which could be positive or negative, for explicit behaviors, there is conscious awareness of how the attitude is expressed.

They are deliberately formed and easy to self-report. With regards to Nigerians and their ethnicity, when it is discovered that you speak the language of a particular group, you are seen to be crossing over from the bad to the good by in group members. Today, even after over 50 years of the events of the civil war happening, a lot of northerners and southerners still feel uncomfortable around each other and explicitly show this. This is because they associate the events of history to the present. Explicit and implicit attitude can contradict each other, what they think they believe is not the attitude that is exhibited unconsciously.

The implicit attitude have also contributed to the success and failures of certain groups within this multi ethnic society, a lot of people have been discriminated against because of their language, ethnicity and physical appearance in a country where everyone is black. The consequences have been economic, educational attainment, general social wellbeing and even mortality even though the government has put in a lot of laws and institutions to help reduce this.

Reducing intergroup conflict can be achieved in a couple of ways, Sherif et al. (1961) talked about the critical factor that determines intergroup conflict, in this study, he described The Realistic Conflict theory as the competition for scarce resources leading to intergroup conflict.

The goals of one group is realistically perceived to frustrate the other group and this would create mutually negative feelings and stereotypes towards the other group. Under the social categorization theory, there are three ways in which we could reduce bias and in turn conflict. They are recategorization, decategorization and mutual differentiation.

Recategorization is categorizing the situation differently by consciously changing how the group was initially categorized. Tajfel and Turner (1979; see also Brewer, 1988; Brewer & Miller, 1984; Fiske & Neuberg, 1990; Wilder, 1978) proposed a continuum that helps individuals self identify or groups association and this can help reframe the perceived boundaries of the group and reduce the inter group bias and conflict. Recategorization strives to categorize the group at a higher level category inclusiveness than what it is already categorized as and reducing the ingroup and out group salience distinction is key to its success at eliminating prejudice. This includes helping groups understand that a member of a different group can be a member of multiple groups. When recategorization identifies common identity goals between the groups, cognitively and motivationally the earlier present favoritism for ones group is extended to the out group because they share a common group identity. Intergroup cooperation allows the sub groups to amalgamate into one common subordinate group Sherif and Sherif (1969, p. 288; see also Sherif, 1966. Recategorization involves the change of pronouns, from us and them to we, placement to reduce the group boundaries and involvement in activities that celebrate the subordinate group.

In the decategorizing area, we talk about when two separate groups come together and have personalized , self revealing interactions, they will become friends and the previous out group stereotypes will be diminished and the inter group conflict will be reduced. It easy to categorize people into groups that have negative connotations because it helps the in group create impressions that are long lasting and understanding their goals and motivations can reduce bias (Brewer, 1988; Fiske & Neuberg,1990) . Personalization does not allow for people to focus on out groups as it relates to the individual self but as it relates to the group self and repeated personalized interactions over time, helps improve the values of the out group to the in group as this’ll be the new information used to categorize each other that contributes to the process of decategorization. “In Bettencourt et al. (1992), for example, contact that permitted more personalized interactions (e.g., when cooperative interaction was person focused rather than task focused) produced more positive attitudes not only toward those out- group members physically present in the contact situation but also toward other out-group members”. Structurally, interaction between the groups is then created to weaken differences and promote interpersonal interactions, facilitating the development of new perceptions. In this decategorization model, people should relate with each other in terms of personal interactions and not as it relates to the group, comparisons should be between self and other, there should be self revealing interactions and lack of uniformity on how other groups should be treated.

The mutual inter group differentiation, similar as it is to the dual identity representation, suggest the maintenance of group distinctiveness even during group cooperation but share group identity at another level that is more inclusive. Such intergroup cooperation changes the pronouns from us and them to we, which is very inclusive. Additional studies have also shown the added value in dual identity representation in contact situations. Mutual differentiation therefore encourages groups to emphasize their mutual distinctiveness in the context of equal cooperative distinctiveness (Hewstone & Brown, 1986) emphasizing each groups strength and weaknesses allows for the recognition of the groups individual contribution. my explanation of this would be like in the case of division of labor, everyone has a different role that all comes together to complete the whole. There is no duplicity of roles but there is a dependence on each part fro success. The mutual intergroup model therefore involves the maintenance of original boundaries, respect for individuality and cooperative equality.


In Nigeria, the government has created policies and laws that are supposed to help reduce prejudice and discrimination and have been trying to effect these changes that will give equal opportunity to its indigenous people regardless of their religious or ethnic background, but this has not really worked. Recently in the southern region of the country where the crude oil is mined, there have been cries of marginalization from the people by the majority north. They have complained of poverty and lack of basic amenities while the northerners continue to enjoy development from the wealth that is generated in their land. This has caused wars and unrest in the country in general, the people are once again seeking to have their own government where they can manage their own resources, the Nigerian government has refused however to grant this request because the crude oil is the main source of income for the whole country. This is very similar to the events initiating the civil war in the 60s.

In my opinion the solution to the reduction of this conflict is the mutual inter group differentiation model. With this, the boundaries of the different groups will be observed, every group will be valued for what it brings to the table and that will create mutual respect, there will be no duplicity of roles and the constant contact will reduce animosity and create an understanding between the groups with a dependability that shows the importance of both groups.


Abubakar A. Atofarati: (CSC 1992) . The Nigerian Civil War, Causes, Strategies, And Lessons Learnt

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Writing is a continuous part of the fieldwork conducted by an anthropologist. It occurs when the anthropologist observes and records information about the community being studied in the form of field notes. These research notes are then compiled into a larger scaled assignment or ethnographic document. In Week 1, you studied the various approaches to anthropology and presented a brief summary of your current understanding of what indigenous means. This week, you identify at least one indigenous group for your field study and provide reasons why you selected this group.

Understanding of Indigenous Identity

Understanding of Indigenous Identity


  • Review the assigned readings in the course texts.
  • Summarize your current understanding of indigenous identity.
  • Select one indigenous group from either Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, Pacific Islands, or South America.


1- to 2 page in which you do the following:

  • Identify the indigenous group that you have selected and the region the group lives in.
  • Explain your reasoning of why this group is considered indigenous.


  • Peters-Golden, H. P. (2012). Culture sketches: Case studies in anthropology (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
    • Chapter 5, “The Hmong: Struggle and Perseverance” (pp. 81-101)
    • Chapter 13, “The Tiwi: Tradition in Australia” (pp. 233-263)

For a basic world map that might help in locating indigenous cultures, use one of the following websites, or another source of your choosing:

The following websites and articles may be useful for your research on indigenous cultures:


  • Sapignoli, M., & Hitchcock, R. K. (2013). Indigenous peoples in Southern Africa. The Round Table, 102(4), 355–365.



  • Keen, I. (2000). A bundle of sticks: The debate over Yolngu clans. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 6(3), 419–436.
  • Dudgeon, P., Wright, M., Paradies, Y., Garvey, D., & Walker, I. (2010). The social, cultural and historical context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.Links to an external site. In Working together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and wellbeing principles and practice (pp. 25–42). Retrieved from






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