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Night Flying Woman Essay

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Gina Plumer Night Flying Woman Assignment American Indian Social Welfare Perspective The book that I decided to read was Night Flying Woman by Ignatia Broker. The tribal identity in the book was Oibwe from the White Earth Band. Ms. Broker started out the book from the present day in Minneapolis where she grew up. There wasn’t much culture to be seen, and the younger generations were getting too lost in the new world. Ms. Broker made sure to mention that she still taught her children the Ojibwe ways, and told them the stories that her grandmother had once told her.

Throughout Ignatia Broker’s introductory chapter, we got a sense of the amount of respect she had for you great-great grandmother Oona, or Night Flying Woman. When Ms. Broker first moved to Minneapolis, she lived in a diverse neighborhood, heavily populated with Latinos. She described being a Native American woman growing up in the urban Minneapolis area. From the time she had first moved there until the present time she was writing about, there had been an increase in the Native population. With the increase in population, she explained how where she lived suddenly was surrounded by factories and freeways.

Many of the Ojibwe people in Minneapolis identified themselves as Native American from a certain reservation, not like a clan as they did in her great-great-grandmother’s childhood. Her opening introduction was explaining the differences of the land and customs of the past to the present way. The book then began to tell the personal story of Ignatia Broker’s great-great-grandmother Ni-bo-wi-se-gwe, or Night Flying Woman. Ni-bo-wi-se-gwe was an only child to Me-ow-ga-bo (Outstanding), and Wa-wi-e-cu-mig-go-gwe (Round Earth). Three weeks after birth, in Indian tradition, came the time when naming must be planned.

Oona’s parents consulted with Grandfather and Grandmother and decided that A-wa-sa-si would be the namer. A-wa-sa-si chose the name Ni-bo-wi-se-gwe (Night Flying Woman) because Oona was born during the darkness of the day. The tribal identity was Ojibwe, and the village that they lived in was very close-knit. Everyone that lived in the village was good at something and they helped each other out when they needed it. For instance, some were good at ricing, some at hunting, at picking berries, some at sugaring, and some at making necessities.

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It was the environment we could only hope for in this day and age. The elders were respected above everyone else, and they were to always speak first. The children were to start learning the traditions from birth so that they would be efficient at an early age. The family structure was very open, and I could easily detect who was in the leadership roles. At birth, Oona’s caregivers were her parents, but she also looked to her grandparents for guidance. When she was given her Indian name, she looked up to her name giver as well.

The responsibility of Oona as a child was to learn the traditions and the Ojibwe way of life. She was to help with the ricing, hunting, berries, sugaring, and berries for one day she was going to have to do it all on her own. She was taught that when she entered her grandmother and grandfather’s home, she was not to say a word until she was spoken to. If nothing was said by them, nothing would be said in return by Oona. The roles and responsibilities that everyone in the village was given depended on the strengths that they had as an individual.

In the new land, Oona’s people weren’t able to hunt, fish, pick berries, or do any of their customary things freely. They were to build real houses, and wear real clothing like the “strangers”. Soon afterward, the strangers demanded that the children attend school, which soon turned into boarding school because of the distance it was away from their homes. At the boarding schools, the Native children were forced to speak English and forget their traditional ways. They were beaten if they disobeyed their teachers. This brought the book into how the Native culture is today.

There aren’t many fluent Ojibwe people, and children are taught the customary methods of survival they were back before treaties were made. When the European settlers came over and started taking over the land, it served as a turning point of the Ojibwe culture and the way that they practiced their ways. When the Europeans came over, Oona and her relatives were forced to pack up and move their things twice. The land that belonged to them their whole lives were being taken over by settlers that thought they “found” the land.

After they had moved, they were forced to start living the way that the new settlers were. While the children were learning the new ways, the adults were as well. Oona’s father had gone to a lumber camp to work. He went to try and earn enough money to build the kinds of houses that the new settlers had already built for themselves. The Native woman began to learn the household needs, and the English language as well. They made clothes similar to the new settlers, and even friended many of them. The way of life that they were once used to was becoming just a speck in their memories.

As the generation passes, Oona always remembered to tell the children of how life used to be, and the traditions that were practiced. She recognized that the children would bring the culture with them in the generations to come, but it would never be as traditional as it once was. Oona’s family coped with the changes by having meetings with the elders, and getting their point of view on the new settlers. There was not much that could be done to save their land and go on living in the manner that they were used to. It seemed as though they all had each other even though their lives were changing drastically.

Oona’s grandfather once said “the forests have never failed us”. I don’t think that they ever did, but the new settlers and their new ways definitely did. It wasn’t a choice for Oona’s family to adhere to the new way of life, but the decision was already made for them by the new settlers. I think that as hard as it sounded, the family coped with the changes very well. In the book, it was before federal and state policy was made. Although, tribal reservations were in the making, and the segments of land that were being saved for the Indian people was laid out.

When a white man shows up with a paper that must be obeyed, it was required the people to move to the White Earth reservation. It was government policy at that time, in the 1840’s, to move all northern Midwest U. S. Indians there in a kind of concentration camp. They were able to resume their traditional life until the boarding school era began. This was when the United States was becoming more unified, and the land was being distributed among the new settlers and the Ojibwe people. When the reservations were made, this was the only place where the Native Americans could hunt, fish, rice, sugar, plant, and pick berries.

They could no longer set up summer and spring villages off the reservation to go about their traditional ways. Ms. Broker made reference to the bad eating habits that many Native Americans have today due to the change in traditional food gathering. If the Native Americans were able to collect food like they did before the new settlers, there wouldn’t be such a high degree of obesity and diabetes on the reservations today. In the book, Oona’s family always found a way to get off their designated land and gather more food, but I’m sure the generations to come found this more difficult.

Appropriate skills that a social worker could use to strengthen and support the families would first off to be aware of the history of Native Americans. To be aware of the changes that they had to make to be an existing culture today. A social worker could work with family members one on one, but also in a group setting to see how they react in the different ways. A social worker could become aware of what the hardships this particular family would be facing, and also the historical trauma that they might be going through. Activities that a social worker could have would be sessions on learning more about the historic culture.

Many Native American people today aren’t aware of the things that our ancestors had to go through when the new settlers came over. Our ancestors were assimilated into the modern culture, and it would be beneficial for our culture today to know the changes that were made. If there were a high school or middle school social worker helping these families, they could help shape Native American activities after school. Activities like pottery and beading, or even a language extra-curricular. There could be many options available to help Native people become in touch with their culture more.

At the end of the book, Ms. Broker made it relevant that the younger generation does thrive to know the culture, and the stories of the past. It was like a revolving door of knowledge in her family in regards to the stories being passed down through the generations. I think that if everyone knew these hardships that the Native American people faced, they would have more respect for the culture, and the people of the culture. It is interesting to see how many people aren’t aware of the changes the Native American people went through in order for the European settlers to settle here and call it their home.

The Chippewa or Ojibwe tribe is one of the largest American Indian tribes in North America. Every time a Native person marries out of their culture, the blood quantum of their children goes down, and in turn the amount of Native American people diminishes. I believe that it is the responsibility of our generation to help with the restoration of our Anishinabe culture. With the help of literacy works like Ms. Broker’s Night Flying Woman, we will be able to make the heritage of our culture known and the descendants of the tribes more aware of the unique history our people went through.

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