The United States of America comprises of citizens from different racial and cultural backgrounds. The main objective of this research paper is to deeply analyze, compare and then contrast the customs, values and the lifestyles of the St. Croix Chippewa Ojibwa Indians and the Somali population in Wisconsin, USA. This research paper will discuss the two communities’ traditions, religions and foods.. Even in the face of modernization and civilization, it is impressive how they have managed to hold onto their traditions.
The St. Croix Chippawa Ojibwa Indians
According to Barnouw (1977), the Ojibwa are among some of the largest Native American groups. They are a constituent of the Anishinaabe which falls under the Algonquian family. The total population of the Ojibwa in the United States of America numbers over fifty six thousand. Records of ancient history trace the origin of the Chippawa to the eastern parts of North America (Loriene, 2010). Their earliest homeland is believed to be on an island off the east coast called Turtle.
The Chippawa were traditionally canoe makers as they lived alongside rivers and along the coast. Apart from their incredible talent in craft work, they also practise hunting, fishing and cultivate wild rice(Treuer, 2001). The Chippawa traditionally waged war using copper arrows until 1745 when they used guns acquired from the British(Densmore, 1979). The use of guns ensured their victory over the Dakota nation which saw the latter pushed further south.
The Ojibwa or Chippawa traditionally lived in localized groups mostly known as bands (Warren, 1984). While men went about with canoe making, the women’s place was in the field where they cultivated a wide variety of food crops ranging from maize to squash. Because they were settled in a place with favorable conditions for their existence, their main type of settlement was sedentary(Loriene, 2010).
The Ojibwa have managed to keep their tradition in various forms. For instance, they have composed songs that highlight the day to day activities that take place in their homesteads (Barnouw, 1977). They speak of the way things were done in the old days and the way they should be done.
These songs help to pass on the tradition of the community from one generation to another. The fire of their culture is therefore kept burning by any one of them who has learnt and memorized the songs by heart. Moreover, these people are extremely social and very welcoming to strangers (Treuer, 2001).
The Ojibwa have also preserved their tradition using rock paintings. Since they were skilled craftsmen, the Chippawa were in a position to record major events of their community on rocks especially those in caves (Office for state, tribal, local and territorial support, n.d).
Some of the things that these paintings depict are the dream articles (objects that interpret or represent visions or dreams), some of their iconic leaders and animals and birds that they treated sacred. The rock artifacts were always intricate, symbolic and rarely secular. According to Warren (1984), this ensured that the secrets of the subculture were not let out to strangers who may happen to come across them. The security of the community was therefore ensured.
The Ojibwa believe in the existence of a supreme being who created the earth and everything that is in it(Treuer, 2001). They believe that this creator, called Gi’-tchie Man-i-to,’ gave man the authority over the entire universe. In the Ojibwa’s religion, the earth is believed to be the mother, the sky the father, the sun the grandfather and the moon the grandmother.
Man (Way-na-boo-zhoo) was created when Gi’-tchie Man-i-to took four parts of the earth, namely fire, water, wind and dust, and blew them into a special sacred shell. This took place in the sky and after man’s formation, he was lowered down onto the earth where he was given the task of naming all living and non-living things including body parts (Densmore, 1979).
Man is said to have travelled across the world on foot naming all that he came across. In this most significant journey, the creator gave man a companion, a wolf. After their mission was complete, the creator ordered the separation of man from the wolf for unknown reasons. Because the two had both been part of this mission, the creator commanded that man should always treat the wolf as his brother (Barnouw, 1977).
In fact, according to the religion of the Ojibwa, man and wolf have more than this trip in common. According to them, they possess a tribe and a clan system, were once hunted for the sake of their hair, have been deprived of their land and have once come close to destruction but are luckily recovering (Treuer, 2001).
The Chippawa worship their creator by offering burnt offerings to him. The sacrifices are offered by specialized people who have been set aside and trained for this sole purpose. The whole process of burning offerings is a sacred event that requires total concentration and attention of everyone present (Warren, 1984).
The amount of value that this subculture puts on offerings is bewildering. They believe that everything happens and is the way it is because of the appeasement of their creator. This appeasement is achieved through the sacrifices they offer. For instance, it is believed that a medicinal plant would not serve its purpose unless a sacrifice such as tobacco is offered to their supreme being (Loriene, 2010).
One notable peculiar thing is that in the event of an offering, a dog is not supposed to be around (Treuer, 2001). This dates back to the relationship that man had with the wolf while on their assigned trip around the earth.
Since a dog is almost similar in every aspect to a wolf, the command by the creator about the separation of the wolf and Way-na-boo-zhoo also applies to it. The presence of a dog near a place of offering is believed to bring bad luck to the Ojibwa people (Warren, 1984).
The Ojibwa eat different types of food during different climatic seasons. During winter, some of the conservative population confines itself in hunting camps where the Ojibwa organize themselves into hunting units.
They hunt for animals like dears, beavers, muskrats, raccoons and elks. The organized hunting groups remove possibilities of arguments about hunting territories (Office for state, tribal, local and territorial support, n. d). At the onset of spring, the Ojibwa population moves to maple syrup camps where they set up wigwams and collect maple syrup.
The maple syrup is added to main meals such as rice and bread. The maple syrup is also used to make small-cubed candies. Spring is also a time for fishing and planting. Some of the crops planted include corn, pumpkins, potatoes and squash. The Ojibwa also gather wild fruits, berries and vegetables. Above all, rice is the staple food of this community (Loriene, 2010).
The immigration of the Somali into America has been propelled by war, hunger and government instability in their home country for two decades (Castagno, 1975). Thousands of Somali nationals escaped this civil war and came to the United States of America to look for jobs and even to study. In Baron, a small town in Wisconsin, the Somali make up 12% of the total population (The United States Commission on Civil Rights, 2011). This high percentage is caused by a turkey plant which provides employment to the subculture.
The Somali tradition is generally an amalgamation of other traditions from Yemen, Ethiopia and Persia (Drysdale, 1964). The Somali are well known for their excellent skills in poetry.
The tradition of the Somali has also lived on as a result of storytelling. The stories keep the norms and virtues of the community fresh on their minds. One major characteristic of the Somali is the ubiquitous chewing of khat. Almost all Somalis who have been brought up in a traditional setting have this habit.
It is among their most treasured practices because it brings them together especially during recreation time. Their passion for khat has seen them seek appeals to law agencies in Wisconsin to have the illegal drug legalized at least for their sake (Somalianinfo, 2010).
The Somali have a rich musical background (U.S Department of State, 2011). They are great composers of rhythmical music which is majorly based on traditional folklore.
Their cherished musical heritage has been a key factor in their worship (Castagno, 1975). The Somali are also talented in art works. For instance, most of them, especially women, are outstanding potters. Moreover, they are privileged to have talented wood carvers amongst them. The products of wood carving have in the recent past received a wide market from the international community.
Except for a handful minority, the Somali people are Muslims by faith. They keenly observe the Islamic culture which is the backbone of their faith. The Somali believe in the existence of a supreme being, Allah. Allah is the creator of heaven and earth. Prophet Muhammad is a religious figure who acts as an intermediary between the people and Allah (U.S Department of State, 2011).
Their spiritualism is characterized by whirling, chanting, falling into a trance and chewing khat. Somali religious leaders are highly respected as they are believed to have special powers which enable to them to pronounce both curses and blessings on people (The 30-days Prayer Network, 2011).
The Somali also believe in the existence of certain mortal spirits called jinnis. These spirits are said to have originated from a heavenly spirit that fell down on earth. The spirits have the capability of bringing sickness and misfortunes to people as well as blessings and good luck (The 30-days Prayer Network, 2011).
The Somali religion encourages the assistance of the poor by those who are in a position to because these very poor people have been granted spiritual powers by Allah which they can use against them at their own will. The conservative dress codes of the Somali women say much about their religious rigidity (Drysdale, 1964).
Somali meals consist of a wide variety of indigenous meals. Generally, they are light meals which are prepared using a lot of spices and other ingredients. Most Somalis take a type of bread (canjeera) that resembles a pancake for breakfast and some tea (shaah). Rice is the main meal for lunch. The rice is spiced with cloves, sage and cumin. The rice may be served with meat stew, bananas or fish. Whatever the accompaniment, the meal always comes out as spicy (Drysdale, 1964).
A common meal for dinner among the Somali is cambuulo, which is basically a dish of beans mixed with sugar and butter. An alternative meal for dinner time can be sliced bread and gelatinous confection and sliced cornbread mixed with sugar and accompanied by black tea. Somali meals are unique in such a way that they are not easy to come by in any other place. In fact, the food may not taste as delicious to other people as it is to them (Somalianinfo, 2011).
Discussion And Conclusion
The two cultures of Ojibwa and Somali in Wisconsin have a lot of similarities as well as differences between them. One notable similarity is the fact that both of them have managed to conserve their culture and norms despite the modern age of civilization. The Ojibwa have managed to maintain their language, religious and social practices, staple food and tradition (Densmore, 1979).
They have not been infiltrated by the wave of modernization that has been sweeping massively in every part of the world. The Somali have also managed to stage up a fight against the infiltration of their culture by modernity. This is shown majorly through their maintenance of their code of dressing, especially among women. The hijabs have never ceased to be the standard accepted dress for Somali women (Drysdale, 1964).
Another similarity between the subcultures of the Ojibwa and the Somali is their acknowledgement of the existence of a supreme being who controls their daily activities. They agree on the fact that this Supreme Being is the one who made the earth and all that is in it. The Ojibwa and the Somali also agree on the existence of spirits that control nature.
For example, in Medicine song of an Indian lover (n.d), the poet speaks of a spirit which has the ability to control the ripples of a river. Among the Ojibwa, there are spirits that are in charge of virtually every aspect of their daily life (Treuer, 2001)
However, there are also major differences between these two subcultures. First and foremost, the Ojibwa offer sacrifices to their creator (Treuer, 2001) while the Somali do not. While the former offer burnt offerings to their supreme being, the latter insist on the fulfillment of the laws of Allah on earth.
The second difference is about socialization. The Ojibwa are a friendly people that socialize openly with anyone irrespective of their background(Warren, 1984). On the contrary, the Somali have some restrictions on the level of socialization (Castagno, 1975). For instance, a Somali woman is not allowed to shake hands with any man or come in contact with him unless they are married.
The last difference is about their creation stories. The Ojibwa believe that their creator made man from four parts of the earth namely fire, water, wind and dust by blowing them into a sacred shell(Loriene, 2010). On the other hand, the Somali believe that God practically created man. According to Drysdale (1964), the Somali believe that Allah created everything on the universe with his own hands.
The above information can help schools appreciate the dress codes of Somali women. Through this study, the entire school population would learn to accept the hijab as an accepted Somali dress. The information about the types of food can be used to improve the learning conditions of students from both cultures.
If students are given food to which they are accustomed, chances are that they will perform better than when given foreign foods. Furthermore, the author of this paper will be able to relate the various types of foods in the two communities with the major food categories. For instance, instead of giving maize meal as an example of a carbohydrate food, the author can mention wild rice for the Ojibwa and canjeerafor the Somali students.Thiswill help the students to get a better understanding of the same.
Furthermore, the way of life of the Ojibwa and the Somali can be taught in class. For instance, the way of life of the two subcultures can be studied and compared with the cultures of other communities in the United States of America. It would be significant to identify the differences and similarities between the two subcultures and other communities in the nation. This will in turn contribute to the eradication of culture bias and the appreciation of racial differences to both the writer and the students.
Materials And Methods
The resources used in this research were accessed by the author through two main methods. First and foremost, the author visited a senior library in Wisconsin state.With the guidance of the librarian, the author accessed volumes of ancient history on the two subcultures.
This is the place where the writer gained most of the information presented in this research paper. The book History of the Ojibway People by Warren W. was the most significant resource that the author used. This is because it contained a detailed account of the history of the Ojibwa people from the eighteenth century to the present. The book also provides an insight on the culture of the Ojibwa.
Another book The Somali disputeby Drysdale J from the same library was also an important part of this research. The book clearly outlines the reason behind the conflict and civil war that led to the immigration of thousands of Somalis into the Wisconsin state of the United States. The book points out that lack of government stability and a good constitution are the major factors that led to a series of wars in the country to this day.
The information in this research paper was also accessed from the internet.The writer made use of search engines such as Google and Bing to arrive at credible sources of information. The author also avoided personal websites that could be containing inaccurate information.
During the study, the writer made notes from books and other sources in print. He also made an effort of seeking the translation services of native speakers of either subculture. While on the internet, the writer extensively read the information and then made notes in his own words. The data from the two sources was then analyzed and compiled under relevant titles and subtitles.
The information collected in this research paper is of much significance to the author and his future as a teacher. The author has learnt to appreciate people and their cultures. Above all, the author has realized the need to teach these cultures in schools. Personally, the information from this research will help the author in overcoming the bias that he had against the Somali. The author has acquired a deeper understanding of the subculture and learnt to see them as fellow citizens.
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Densmore, F. (1979). Chippewa customs. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society. [Secondary, Ojibwa]
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