The ashinabe culture

The research is focused on one of the Indian tribes of Canada called the Ashinabe. Theircultureand social customs are investigated, its importance determined and put into context within the contemporary culture. The Ashinabe of the Great Lakes tribes settled in Turtle Island in Canada before the arrival of the Europeans or the “ light-skinned race “ as the Ashinabe called them.

They were a member of the group called the First Nations consisting of native “ Indian” inhabitants of Canada. The Ashinabe had closefamilyties and kin communities.

However, like other natives of modern times, the Ashinabe had to fight for their rights to their land and culture. As inherent to the natives who first inhabit the Continents of America, the Ashinabe are rich in social custom. The meaning and practices of these customs are handed down from generation to generation by the respected Elders through stories that are often identified as myths and legends. The Ashinabe had clear division of what does a woman and man do in society. The women were in-charge of household chores while the men go out to hunt forfood.

The Ashinabe males take pride in their hunting skills. Another particular example of Ashinabe social custom is the telling of stories, of which the prominent one is the foretelling of the future through the Seven prophecies of Fire that represents seven different eras. It is interesting to note that in these fourth through sixth prophecies, it tells of the coming of the “ light-skinned people” and how they will influence the Ashinabe people and this is validated by history when the Europeans came and took over the land and introduce their own teachings and way of life.

The Ashinabe people love to hold ceremonies which is often a reflection of their religious beliefs (in spirits of nature). In conducting their ceremonies the Ashinabe had the social custom of gathering together in circles. They have a ceremony called the sharing circle where a facilitator encourages the members of the circle to share their feelings or their views concerning a problem or solution.

If it is a healing circle, facilitated by experienced healers, the members are asked of their desire to begin the healing process and this could be an emotional activity for the participants hence emotional supports are provided during and after the circle. For doctoring ailments, the medicine man consults the spirits for remedies. In both circles, a stick, or stone or feather is passed around to make the sharing easier and focused. In ceremonies, sacred fires are lit and tobacco offerings are offered to the Creator, Kitchi- Manitou.

The most well known ceremony of the Ashinabe is the Pow Wow (feast of the pipes) with its activity of following a Pow Wow trail all summer. Unfortunately, because of commercialization and as an attraction to tourist, people forget that Pow Wow is indeed a serious ceremony for peace and giving gratitude and appreciation for the spirits of nature, with each song and dance offered as prayers to their Creator. The participants wore colorful regalia, jingle dress that is full of symbolic meaning but unfortunately recognized by most as just a costume.

Feasts are then held after the Pow Wow ceremony where squash, corn and beans (the Three Sisters that sustained their ancestors) are always included to feed the people. A spirit plate, containing a sample of every dish, is made before any one partakes of the food and it is passed around for the guest. Feasts are also held for other occasions like weddings or when naming a child. The Ashinabe also practice the giving away of gifts in their ceremonies and feasts to honor someone and this gifts should be meaningful tothe giverand to the one with whom the gift is given.

The social custom of the Ashinabe people is very important as it reflect the way of life of the past and hence, the history of the early inhabitants of Canada. Although their ceremonies are considered now as one of the main tourist attractions and their ritual object as souvenirs, to the Ashinabe it held a deep symbolic meaning and tells so much of who they are as a person and people. Moreover, the social custom of the Ashinabe tells so much of how they view life and understanding these social customs is the key to understanding the Ashinabe mind and culture.

The Ashinabe culture in some ways contradicts the contemporary culture which can be a source of conflict and tension, like for example in contemporary culture, tobacco is not used as an offering and women seeks fulfillment outside the home. However, one can observed that Ashinabe culture is similar to the contemporary culture like having a feast and ceremony for special occasions. Moreover, as the Ashinabe culture gets intermingled in the mainstream culture they help enrich and give color to the culture of the whites.

For example, the Pow Wow had become a good attraction for business, the arts and objects of the Ashinabe people had become favorite souvenirs and home decorations. However, the Ashinabe also adopted the culture of the whites, making them lose their own culture and hence theirleadershipand confidence in themselves. At present, Ashinabe people are trying to revive their culture but the problem however is with the Cultural Appropriation that takes place when the dominant whites claim as their own the culture (their arts and literature, for example) of the minorities like the Ashinabe.

The whites gain profit by selling the arts of the Ashinabe. Moreover, the most painful is the taking of the Ashinabe historical lands (without their consent and often through a betrayal of trust and promises) which had played a major role in their cultural history. This has been one of the sources of contention and conflict between the government and the Ashinabe people at present.