This study focuses much needed attention on three functions of silence that are central to the college experiences of many American Indian students. Using ethnographic data collected with 34 communicators in the context of a predominately White, U.S. university, the authors show silence to inhabit empowering and generative communicative actions within which American Indian students achieve particular communally linked cultural objectives. Specifically, they explore how interactants actualize silence in the direct service of particularizing, perpetuating, and protecting culture. The authors show how silence is used simultaneously to maintain traditional cultural practices, distinguish cultural practices from those of non-Indians, and safekeep cultural elements from extra-cultural ideological and pragmatic threats.
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