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Out of Harmony on the Cherokee Boundary: clinics, culture and the sex ed curriculum

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Based upon fieldwork on the Cherokee Boundary in the USA during the mid-1990s, the author explores why a community that supported a teen health clinic and whose high school curriculum met the state standards for sexuality education continued to have a teen pregnancy rate that was one of the highest in western North Carolina. In the process, this study examines the conflicting views about adolescent sexuality, particularly teen pregnancy and homosexuality, held by Cherokee progressives and traditionalists as well as the resulting contradictory approaches to sex education within a community that values harmony. Arguing that the tribe's education policies worked at cross-purposes, the author details the mismatch between the school's sex education curriculum and health clinic vis-à-vis students' sexual interests, knowledge, and behaviors. Difficulties in integrating native culture and an absence of communication further inhibited the policies' effectiveness. Paradoxically, by avoiding the disharmonious issue of sexuality education, the community has become further out of harmony.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2002

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