Navigating the Cultural Landscape towards Self-Determination: Results of an Exploratory Study in American Samoa

Main Article Content

Denise L. Uehara
Tafa Tua-Tupuola


culture, self-determination, perceptions, research flexibility


The American Samoa University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, Education, Research, and Service (AS-UCEDD) with the University of Hawaii Center on Disability Studies, conducted an exploratory study to better understand how state agencies deliver services, and how disability is perceived by agency staff and consumers in American Samoa. While it initially was envisioned as a needs-sensing study that used surveys and targeted database reviews to systematically capture client needs, the study transformed to a largely qualitative preliminary investigation that was dependent on personal interviews. Findings revealed how contextual, linguistic, and cultural factors play a hugely important role when researching western-based ideals and concepts within indigenous communities.

Abstract 367 | PDF Downloads 109 Word Downloads 140 Text Downloads 149


Administration on Developmental Disabilities. (2008). Report on the American Samoa Developmental Disabilities Network. American Samoa State Council on Developmental Disabilities, American Samoa Protection and Advocacy Agency (The Office of Protection and Advocacy for the Disabled).

Anfara, V. A., Brown, K. M., & Mangione, T. L. (2002). Qualitative analysis on stage: Making the research more public. Educational Researcher, 31(7), 28-38.

Brown, Z., Hammond, O, & Onikama, D. (1997). Language use at home and school: A synthesis of research for Pacific educators. Honolulu, HI: Pacific Resources for Education and Learning.

Creswell, J. (1994). Research design: Qualitative & quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ewalt, P. L. & Mokuau, N. (1995). Self-determination from a Pacific perspective. Social Work, 40(2), 168-175.

Field, S., Sarver, M.D. & Shaw, S. F. (2003). Self-determination: A key to success in postsecondary education for students with learning disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 24, 339-349.

Fitzgerald, M. H. & Anderson, D. (1992). Providing vocational rehabilitation services in Pacific Island communities: Myth and reality. American Rehabilitation, 18(1), 7-10.

Frankland, H. C., Turnbull, A. P., Wehmeyer, M. L. & Blackmountain, L. (2004). An Exploration of the self-determination construct and disability as it relates to the Dine (Navajo) culture. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 39(3), 191-205.

Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago, IL: Aldine.

Hardre, P. L. & Reeve, J. (2003). A motivational model of rural students’ intentions to persist in, versus drop out of, high school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 347-356.

Leake, D. W., & Black, R. S. (2005). Implications of individualism and collectivism for the transition of youth with significant disabilities. TASH Connections, Nov-Dec, 12-16.

Leake, D. W., Black, R. S., & Roberts, K. (2004). Assumptions in transition planning: Are they culturally sensitive? Impact 1, 16(3), 28-29.

Locust, C. (n.d.). Leave no one behind: Approaches to working effectively with American Indians/Alaska Natives. Missoula, MT: American Indian Disability Technical Assistance Center, University of Montana.

Marshall, M. (1994). Social isolation, cultural competence and disability in the Carolines. Micronesian Counselor, 14. Federated States of Micronesia: Micronesian Seminar.

Merriam, S. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Mohatt, G. V., Hazel, K. L., Allen, J., Stachelrodt, M., Hensel, C. & Fath, R. (2004). Unheard Alaska: Culturally anchored participatory action research on sobriety with Alaska Natives. American Journal of Community Psychology, 33(3/4), 263-273.

Mokuau, N. & Tauili’ili, P. (1997). Families with Native Hawaiian and Samoan Roots. In Lynch, E. W. & Hanson, M. J. (Eds). Developing Cross-Cultural Competence, 2nd ed. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.

Norton, I. M., & Manson, S. M. (1996). Research in American Indian and Alaska Native communities: Navigating the cultural universe of values and process. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 64(5), 856-860.

Pacific Basin University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) Application, CFDA 93.632. (2006).

Ratliffe, K. T. (2005). Pacific Island peoples and rehabilitation. In M. Royeen & J. Crabtree (Eds.), Culture in rehabilitation: From competency to proficiency (pp. 242-273). Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Ripine, M. (2008). A history of Amerika Samoa: An annotated timeline. American Samoa: American Samoa Community College.

Serna, L., Forness, S. R. & Nielsen, M. E. (1998). Intervention vs. affirmation: Proposed solutions to the problem of disproportionate minority representation in special education. Journal of Special Education, 32, 48-51.

Stanhope, V. (2002). Culture, control and family involvement: A comparison of psychosocial rehabilitation in India and the United States. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 25(3), 273-280.

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Tuhiwai Smith, L. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. New York: Palgrave.

Turnbull, A. P. & Turnbull, R. (2006). Self-determination: Is a rose by any other name still a rose? Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 31(1), 83-88.

Wehmeyer, M. L. (2006). Self-determination and individuals with severe disabilities: Re-examining meanings and misinterpretations. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 30, 113-120.

Wehmeyer, M. L. (1997). Self-determination as an educational outcome: A definitional framework and implications for intervention. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 9, 175-209.

Yamauchi, L. A. (1998). Individualism, collectivism, and cultural compatibility: Implications for counselors and teachers. Journal of Humanistic Education and Development, 36, 189-198.

Zhang, D. (2005). Parent practices in facilitating self-determination skills: The influences of culture, socioeconomic status, and children’s special education status. Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 30(3), 154-162.

Zhang, D. & Benz, M. R. (2006). Enhancing self-determination of culturally diverse students with disabilities: Current status and future directions. Focus on Exceptional Children, 38(9), 1-12.

Zhang, D. & Law, B. H. (2005). Self-determination as a dropout prevention strategy. Journal of At Risk Issues, 11(2), 25-31.

Zhang, D., Wehmeyer, M. L. & Chen, L. J. (2005). Parent and teacher engagement in fostering self-determination in students with disabilities: A comparison between the US and the ROC. Remedial and Special Education, 26, 55-64.