Example research essay topic: Cultural Ethnogoraphy Of The Ojibway Native Americans – 1,642 words

I sat in awe when a Native American, dressed in
traditional regalia, walked forward and began
speaking to us about his life and culture. Never
in my nineteen years of life had I actually seen a
Native American aside from television. Prior to
that point I never had any first hand experiences
with their culture, so therefore all of my
opinions and thoughts were based on stereotypes I
had come to absorb over the years. Therefore, he
looked how I had imagined he would, but I had no
clue what to expect from the person underneath the
garb. Gabe Desrosiers, an Ojibway Indian, was able
to convey his cultures message through the song
and dance of his people. Through his powwow
examples that he was willing to share with us, I
was able to add human feelings and emotions to a
stereotype that began and ended with physical
appearance.

Gabe Desrosiers is an Ojibway Indian
who continues to spread the song and dance of the
Ojibway tradition throughout the North American
continent. He hails from the Lake of the Woods
area in Ontario, Canada where he is the lead
singer and the composer for the Ojibway drum group
known as The Northern Wind Singers. Gabe and The
Northern Wind Singers have traveled extensively
throughout the United States and Canada on the
powwow circuit. In many ways Native American
traditions continue to survive through the powwow.
Gabe began his presentation by describing his
cultural background. Immediately he stressed the
importance of women, and how they are respected
greatly. Women are an important foundation in
Native American life by being the bearers of life
and therefore coincide with mother earth.

Gabe
mentioned that women pass the drum from creator to
the tribes. This being inherently important since
the drum is considered to be the heartbeat of the
tribe itself. That idea provided the basis for
Gabe to relate his own beginning involvement with
his tribe. At the age of six he started learning
about traditional dances and music. Women are
given a lot of respect, more than can be seen in
many cultures around the world. I was rather
surprised at this because I had never previously
pictured Native American women as being seen as
such large contributors to their culture.

The
knowledge of traditional music is stressed at a
young age since it is at the heart of the tribe
and is what keeps the culture going. Gabe
explained, I didnt have to go to a music class,
unlike popular American culture where music is
usually taught at school as opposed to at home.
Certain things can only be passed through
generations by song, so there is a higher
importance in learning music for that reason. On
the same note, Gabe made a point by saying Without
language we would be lost. His native language
carries with it the importance of being able to
preserve their culture, so he had no need to learn
English until elementary school. He started
composing music at the age of twenty, because he
felt that it was gods gift. Throughout his
upbringing, music and dance had instilled in him
an identity with his people.

After explaining that
the basis of their culture grounded in song and
dance, Gabe was able to convey the importance of
ceremonies. Gabe started out by saying that he
could not demonstrate sacred songs or show sacred
objects because they are just that, sacred.
Outsiders are not allowed to see these practices
that hold religious and traditional meaning that
are restricted to members of the tribe. Therefore,
there is an entire aspect of Native American
culture that is shut off from the rest of the
world. By holding things as too sacred to share
with others outside the tribe, it reinforces their
identity and solidarity within the tribe. A
ceremony typically opens by having the women dance
to seven songs sung by the men. Once again there
is a certain importance placed on women by having
them dance to open the ceremony.

This is kept in a
sacred circle that maintains the tradition.
Holding on to sacred practices creates a close
bond between those in the tribe while sustaining
their traditions that have suffered greatly over
time. I found it interesting that the only way
outsiders can really learn about Native Americans
is through the powwow, which is open for all those
interested in attending. The intertribal powwow is
important in the lives of many Native Americans
including Gabe. Powwows are often held around the
country from June until September, where many
families will go on the circuit from competition
to competition. Gabe mentioned that there are
professional dancers who can make a living on the
powwow circuit by winning cash prizes for getting
first place in competition. I was rather surprised
by this fact because I thought that material
awards would not be a part of a powwow.

However,
it makes sense that true sacred ceremonies are
kept in private and hold a deeper meaning than
intertribal powwows that more or less are meant to
bring people together in a fun competitive
atmosphere. Gabe summed up the idea of the powwow
well, Powwows are about having fun and making
friends, maybe even a girlfriend. I thought his
lighthearted comment was able to convey a message
to everyone that even though Native Americans are
dressed in traditional garb and sing about their
heritage, it is still basically just a party
between family and friends. At the heart of the
powwow is the most important object, the drum. The
term drum serves two meanings. One meaning is
literally referring to the instrument, and the
other refers to the musical group that performs.
Gabe provided an example of typical beats on the
hand drum.

The sound of a typical drumbeat is
similar to that of a heartbeat. Gabe explained
that the heartbeat sound is the difference between
an actual beat used in powwows and those
stereotypical Indian beats played at sporting
events. During Gabes demonstration I was amazed at
the heartbeat sound. It truly was much different
than the stereotypical beat that many try to
portray as Native American. Among the Ojibway
nations the drum is not only the heartbeat of a
powwow, but also that of the tribe itself. It is
explained that the Creators first thoughts,
represented by a shimmering sound, were answered
by this heartbeat that came from the earth as it
was being formed.

Drums are therefore thought of
as having a life of their own and are treated as
sacred objects. Drums are decorated with tribal
colors that add to the individual uniqueness of
every drum. I had never considered a single
instrument to be such a symbol for a people, like
the drum is to the Ojibway. One of the most
powerful parts of the presentation was Gabes
singing demonstration. By being able to hear him
sing live, the songs conveyed a much more powerful
meaning than when heard on a cd for example. I was
in awe of the Native American vocal styling.

It
was completely different than any live performance
I had ever heard. The vocables sung to the beat of
a drum were unique to say the least. I was
especially impressed when he demonstrated the
differences between the southern style and
northern style of singing. He showed a great range
in his ability to sing lower southern style songs
and then being able to do a high pitched northern
style song. Previously I had not known that there
were two main distinctions in Native American
singing. Also, I enjoyed hearing the cowgirl song
that he sang in English.

It had a sound that
reminded me of the west. I thought it was
interesting that Gabe described the song as having
white words, which I thought carried a strong
meaning when described that way. He places a
distinction with the songs sung by his people in
his language, compared to the songs of the white
culture sung in English. Its interesting to hear
the variety of songs sung at a powwow, from
traditional songs to newly created songs with
English words. Also, courting songs are sung to
women in order to try and win their favor. Gabe
displayed a certain passion for singing when he
was explaining how you get tired from singing all
day and jumping from drum to drum at a powwow.

You
could tell he enjoys every second of performing,
despite the toll it takes on his voice. I was
extremely impressed by Gabes grass dance
demonstration. He has been a grass dance champion
before, and his performance was beautiful. It had
a certain balance between beauty and power at the
same time. Powerful yet delicate. Bells are worn
on the dancer to call the spirits.

His regalia are
a significant part, with colorful feathers and
fringes adding to the beauty of the dance. The
grass dance is one of the oldest northern dances
that has been passed from tribe to tribe,
originating with the Omaha Tribe. There are a wide
variety of dance competitions at the powwow,
ranging from traditional dance that imitates the
hunt, to the more recently created fancy dance
with brilliant colors and acrobatic dancing to
fast beats. It was a beautiful visual end to his
presentation. Through Gabes performances and words
I was able to gain a much greater understanding of
Native American culture than I had prior to his
visit. I think I was a little upset when he
mentioned that he had cds for sale in the back,
because a part of me still wanted to believe that
they were a mystical group of people and not like
everyone else.

After seeing Gabe it was quite
apparent that Native Americans are stereotyped and
often dehumanized behind a veil of feathers by the
mass of the population..

Research essay sample on Cultural Ethnogoraphy Of The Ojibway Native Americans