The Institute for Culturally Restorative Practices


ICRP in brief

The Institute for Culturally Restorative Practices

What is Cultural Attachment Theory

Excerpts from “Developing a Culturally Restorative Approach to Aboriginal Child and Youth Development: Transitions to Adulthood”
© Estelle Simard, MSW, Doctoral Candidate – Education, 2011
© Shannon Blight, MSW, 2011

Cultural attachment is a philosophy, which encapsulates how an individual bonds to his or her culture. Cultural attachment creates a direct spiritual force, where the bond begins, develops, and evolves for the individual. In Anishinaabemowin, cultural attachment is expressed as wiidamaagowiziwinan. This means the deep connection between the individual and their spiritual connection to their Creator through his or her access to cultural structure. Cultural attachment is a life-giving philosophy, as it instills life force energy into an individual.

Cultural attachment has remained in Aboriginal worldview because as Aboriginal people there exists the genetic memory of the ancestors, this is called gichi Anishinaabe aadizokaan(an) / gagiikwewewin(an). This genetic memory is the spirit of Aboriginal people. Cultural attachment is built on the principle that cultural memory is carried in an Aboriginal’s DNA. This cultural memory becomes active or alive, and inspires connection to the spirit. Many people feared that historical effect and colonization has eroded the cultural memory of the Aboriginal people, but they cannot be further from the truth. The truth is that cultural memory, connection to that memory, and its subsequent cultural attachment has never left the people, it has only waited to be awakened.

Simard (2009) discussed cultural attachment theory as a champion to culturally restorative practice. Originally, attachment theory was deconstructed from an Aboriginal perspective, wherein, philosophies, theories, application, research, and practice was analyzed through the lens of Aboriginal worldview. The intent was to understand this key children’s mental health and child welfare driver and its impact on Aboriginal children and youth. The result of this analysis was the development of a new attachment theory called cultural attachment theory. The conceptual framework was not to discredit or minimize attachment theory but to say, attachment theory by itself has not worked for Aboriginal people. Cultural attachment theory is built upon an existing framework, which supports Aboriginal cultural structure. Cultural attachment can reinforce cultural structure processes in the healthy development of Aboriginal children.

Cultural attachment theory seeks to secure knowledge of family, extended family, community, and Nation and their relationship to each other and the world. Cultural attachment theory is the natural resiliencies, which exist within the Aboriginal cultural structures, which are supported by the roles inherent in raising a child of the Creator. Cultural attachment theory provides an Aboriginal child with the ability to have a secure base in which he or she can explore the world. More specifically, cultural attachment theory provides the individual with cultural support, via the structures to successful transition to adulthood. Cultural attachment theory promotes the affectionate bond between a child and his family that endures over time and space throughout one’s lifetime. Further, cultural attachment theory in application is the systematic embracing of the Aboriginal culture and matching of services to meet the cultural needs of the Anishinaabe child.