Cultural Analysis

Cultural Analysis

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Maria is a twenty year old who was born in Fargo but moved to Belcourt when she was two with her family. Her mother was born and raised in Belcourt, ND but married a man from a different tribe. This was why they had moved to Fargo, ND but when her parents became ill they moved back to take care of her parents. Maria has two sisters, one who is twenty-four and one who is seventeen. Maria attended the community college in Belcourt for one year and received her license in lobotomy. After one year at the community college she decided to transfer to the University of Mary and plans on graduating with medical lab science degree. Her passions are reading, nail art, drawing, and spending quality time with her family and friends. Although Maria speaks English it is important as a Chippewa to learn the native language Ojibwa. She is not fluent in Ojibwa but she loves listening and learning the language from her grandmother. The Ojibwa language is spoken roughly by 40,000 to 50,000 people (Roy, 2006).
The Chippewa tribe also known as Ojibwa was the third largest Native American group with a population of 104,000, which was after the Cherokee and the Navajo tribes (Roy, 2006). Federally recognized Ojibwa reservations are found in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, and North Dakota. When I asked Maria about her cultural views of illness she really emphasized that health is a concern for their tribe. Native American groups do share concerns of poor health across the country. There are many incidences of chemical dependency, diabetes, fetal alcohol syndromes, obesity, suicidal and accidental deaths (Roy, 2006). Although there is a blend of traditional and modern treatment methods used in Belcourt today these issues are still relevant. Maria also mentioned how important it is in their culture that not just immediate family but extended family all come to each other’s aides when one fall ills. Some variations that were mentioned in the article I found were about religious background. Christianity was adopted slowly, but most modern Chippewa are Roman Catholic or Protestant Episcopalian. Some other variations are with the older generations and the youth. The majority of the elders can speak fluent Ojibwa while the younger generations barely any can speak Ojibwa let alone are fluent in the native tongue.
Maria talked about how smudging, spirit fire, drums, wood work, basket weaving, and powwow’s are all symbolic in their culture.

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Smudging’s happen once a month and is for the deceased. One will often offer a sacrifice, prayers, and fasting for the dead. This is a form of mourning and an expression of grief. Smudging is blackening ones face, chest, and hands with charcoal. What I thought was really interesting is that they celebrate a “Feast of the Dead” which is a service scheduled each fall that is sponsored by families who had lost members of the previous year (Roy, 2006), which has many similarities to Catholic’s All Souls feast day. The sprit fires are not for everyone but the purpose for them is to set the sprit free of the individual who has died this is so they are not tied to this earth still. The drums play a significant role in the tribe and are played at various celebrations and at the powwows. Wood work is where much pride is taken in to. It is a craftsman’s work that has been handed down for many generations and is still taught in the tribe. These wood works are very unique and beautiful. The basket weaving is also a delicacy. It is time consuming but the end product is beautiful as well as the wood work also much pride is taken in these baskets.
When comparing and contrasting the information I received from Maria to the research I found there was much more emphasis on the family, the powwow, and the smudging from Maria then from the research. Not much was mentioned in the research about any of these three mentioned above. When in the research they did talk about the family and community dynamics it focused on the Ojibwa culture and how the individual lived in a band and was a member of a clan. People of the same clan claim a common totem which is the symbol of a living creature such as the bear, bird, catfish, crane, deer, loon, and marten (Roy, 2006). When I asked Maria about family and community dynamics this was not mentioned but it was just more of how much quality time is spend with not just immediate family but extended family as well. In the research the powwows were mentioned once or twice and to no great detail. When I asked Maria she told me all about the fancy shawls, drums, grass dancers, beading, jingle dance, the food and all that is part of the powwows. Smudging was mentioned in the research I obtained but it was described to a much greater detail with Maria and I was able to understand the purpose of it better when she explained it to me.
The similarities were when in the research it talked about the intermarriages were acceptable and how accepting the tribe really is of not only other tribes but other cultures as well. Maria’s parents are a prime example her father is from a different tribe and they live in Belcourt together peacefully. Intermarriage was acceptable, and by the 1900 most Ojibwa were of mixed heritage, typically French Ojibwa (Roy, 2006). Also the section on education matched up extremely well with Maria’s personal experience. Community colleges are offered on many reservations and higher education along with the opportunity to learn their native tongue Ojibwa is very common for this tribe.
From the opportunity and time I have been able to spend with Maria I have realized our similarities and differences within our own cultural groups. Maria and I relate really well when it comes to our attitudes about school. We put time into our studies and when it comes to tests we do the best we can. We also shared similarities in our carefreeness but differed in our experiences. She is fairly new to the University of Mary campus community and thus leads her to be more reserved about events and activities on campus. She is not quite as outgoing as I am. Our values are similar when it comes to religion. I am Roman Catholic and Maria is as well. Praying before class is new compared to the community college for her but she really appreciates it. The Catholic faith is in every aspect of my life. Maria and I also have similar values when it comes to our families and doing well in school. We both love school and love spending time with our families. Our experiences are different as in I grew up in Montana with a population consisting of Caucasians while Maria grew up in North Dakota with a population of mostly Native Americans. We also have similarities because we are both at the University of Mary currently but in the summers she goes back to Belcourt and I live in East Glacier which is a reservation close to the National Park in Montana. We have both been exposed or surrounded by Native American culture growing up and have seen firsthand the stereotyping and prejudices of both cultures from both sides.
For the self-evaluation I would say my interview with Maria was laidback. We eat lunch together at least three times a week and when I interviewed her it was good but almost too relaxed. I get nervous not matter how well I know people and I felt that I was not as well organized as I thought I was. The way I structured the questions was helpful but I felt like I just kept firing them at Maria. What I really enjoyed was learning so much about the Chippewa tribe and how much it differed from the Blackfeet tribe I grew up around. Maria was so willing to share her culture with me who was wonderful and I was truly intrigued throughout the interview process. One part of the interview that really made me happy was how she made sure to say how welcomed she felt to the University and how friendly so many people have been to her. Overall I felt like the interview went well. If I could do it again I would do it a little differently but I felt like I was able to obtain all the information I needed for this paper and discussion panel.



Works Cited

Roy, L. (2006, December). Ojibwa History, Migration to the great lakes. Retrieved from everyculture: http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Le-Pa/Ojibwa.html


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