Term Paper: Kiowa Song According to Michael

Pages: 5 (1465 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] Because song transcends language and therefore judgment, hymn permits and promotes cultural continuity without the imposition of biased historiography. Moreover, hymn enabled the Ojibwa to retain the core of their heritage while at the same time creating a new cultural awareness and new forms of ritual activity. Practically, hymn played a key role in communal ritual activities, notably funeral wakes. Closely paralleling the connection between colonialism and cultural death, hymn as "music of mourning" has a dual meaning (McNally 144). Hymnody expresses sorrow, pain, and indignity; as the focal point of Ojibwa wakes, one of the chief functions of song is ushering death.

McNally focuses on the paradox of Ojibwa hymn as a syncretic ritual integrating Christianity within a traditional anishinaabe framework. Hymnody connotes necessary adaptation and survival against the odds, "both accommodation and resistance," (McNally 148). However, McNally offers little factual evidence for his claims. For example, the author bases his thesis on the assumption that hymn served such a survivalist function for the Ojibwa. The author notes the methodological weaknesses in his account on page 138, noting that because hymns stemmed from an oral tradition and was later codified phonetically, the actual impact of hymnody on the Ojibwa is uncertain. Unfortunately, McNally scarcely uses interviews with Ojibwa elders and much of his otherwise astute insight is based more on personal observation and analysis than on actual factual evidence. McNally provides scanty concrete examples of the function of hymn historically or today. One of the only actual examples he provides it that of the discrepancy between attendance at a church service and guild hall service for a funeral. The author observes the role of hymn at the wake, half of which was held at the Christian Church and the other half at tribal guild hall. McNally does not offer other possible reasons for the lack of attendance at the church service other than an expression of cultural solidarity; perhaps favoring the guild hall's hymn service was less an expression of solidarity and more an expression aesthetic preference. In fact, McNally downplays the aesthetic function of hymn as if it were completely irrelevant.

In spite of these methodological weaknesses, McNally's article offers keen insight into the ritual and cultural role of song in Ojibwa culture. The author traces the evolution of the function of hymn and thus places his information within a historical context. Such context is important if modern readers and scholars are to understand why hymn has remained one of the only remaining threads linking current Ojibwa culture with pre-contact Ojibwa culture. Furthermore, McNally offers a unique perspective on modern Native American ethnographies: "indianness" does not necessarily connote pre-contact civilization, which once tainted with the touch of European culture is no longer viable. To view Ojibwa culture in this manner denigrates it, portrays it as being static, only relevant once it is shaped by colonialism. In fact, Ojibwa culture, like most native cultures, evolved and transformed throughout time due to various factors such as geography and interaction and integration with other peoples.

Another key strength of McNally's piece is his ability to illustrate the transcendent and symbolic in practical terms. Hymn for the Ojibwa entails a complex interaction of the mundane with the spiritual; although it is nearly impossible to prove such abstract realities, McNally proves his point by providing evidence that hymn serves a ritual and a social function. For the Ojibwa, pre-hymnal song served a similar function and McNally shows that Christian-based Ojibwa hymns serve a similar social and spiritual function. Because the hymns are Christian in content but sung in native Ojibwa tongue, they represent syncretism and cultural continuity. Moreover, because the Christian content of the hymn closely resembles Ojibwa value systems, the hymns were for the Ojibwa elders a neat, convenient means to bring Ojibwa tradition into a changing modern world. For the younger generations of Ojibwa to appreciate and maintain their cultural identity, song must bridge the gap between indigenous Ojibwa and modern European cultures.

As an analysis of the function of hymn on White Earth, McNally's article treats the irony of the Christian-Ojibwa hymn delicately and with attention paid to historical context. Reminding readers of the evolution of Ojibwa-white relations, of the general role of song in Ojibwa culture, and of the universal process of "ritualization" that song can represent, McNally provides a thorough… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Kiowa Song According to Michael.  (2004, April 2).  Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/kiowa-song-according-michael/5909497

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"Kiowa Song According to Michael."  2 April 2004.  Web.  17 July 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/kiowa-song-according-michael/5909497>.

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"Kiowa Song According to Michael."  Essaytown.com.  April 2, 2004.  Accessed July 17, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/kiowa-song-according-michael/5909497.