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Understanding Human Experience

Therefore this ethnographic film allowed for participant observation via first hand accounts of the main character's lives and activities for over ten years.

Most of the prejudices about Native peoples were commonly held beliefs until this film highlighted the anthropological theory of orientation, cultural relativism, which was the approach of four major postulates (329). The first postulate was that understanding cultural aspects of human behavior was not biologically based or conditioned but rather acquired solely through learning as was displayed in Victor's harsh attitude (Malinowski 133). Victor learned to maintain a rough exterior as a result of his father's abuse. Next, cultural conditioning of behavior is ultimately accomplished through habituation (Whitten 292). Thus, traditions such as beliefs, choice in food, and maintained lifestyle on the reservation were passed down from parent to child. The next approach, that all cultures are equally developed according to their own priorities and values; none is better, more advanced, or less primitive than any other (293). From this, the film viewer denotes that the slow development of technology, social beliefs, and meager change within the society do not make the community less important, but rather the film brings to light the individuality of the culture. Lastly, cultural traits cannot be classified or interpreted according to universal categories appropriate to "human nature" (294). This film completely shattered all stereotypes of Native American culture and instead focused only upon the meaning and factuality within the context of coherently interrelated elements internal to this particular culture. "Smoke Signals" allowed viewers to understand the misconceptions of ethnocentrism and realize the importance of cultural re


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Understanding Human Experience. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 12:57, July 28, 2017, from
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