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Mi’kmaq and Saudi Cultures Comparison Research Paper

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Introduction

Most countries differentiate themselves from others by the unique culture they possess. By definition, culture is the shared characteristics of a group and it provides a common identity for the group members. Two countries that have groups of people with different cultures are Canada and Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, the Arab inhabitants of the country have a unique and rich culture. In Canada, the First Nation tribe of the Mi’kmaq has a distinctive culture. This paper will set out to compare the culture of the Arab Saudis with that of the Canadian Mi’kmaq. It will highlight the differences and similarities between the two in order to promote a better understanding of these cultures.

Historical Overview of the Mi’kmaq and the Saudis

Saudi Arabia is a Middle East Arab country that was founded in 1932. Arab nomad tribes occupied the region before the formation of modern Saudi Arabia. During the era of the nomadic tribes, there were limited urban trading settlements where commercial activities took place. Up to the late 1930s, Saudi Arabia relied on money from Muslim pilgrims and agricultural activities for its economy.

The economic prospects of the kingdom changed dramatically following the discovery of huge oil deposits in 1938. Because of the wealth created by the oil sales, the kingdom was able to develop into a regional leader with modern amenities available to all Saudis. However, in spite of the wealth and modernity of Saudi Arabia, the country is highly conservative. Many Saudis hold on to some of the cultural values and traditions of the past.

The Mi’kmaq are among the native inhabitants of Canada. Archaeological discoveries indicate that these people have lived in Canada’s Maritimes provinces for over three thousand years (Hornborg, 2013). The first documented meeting between the Mi’kmaq and the European settlers occurred in the sixteenth century.

The Mi’kmaq called themselves ulnoo but the French and English started to use the term “Ni’kmaq”, which was a greeting work that came to be associated with the tribe during the early 17th century (Hornborg, 2013). The Mi’kmaq subsisted on hunting and fishing and it was news about rich fishing waters on their territory that attracted the Europeans to the region. During the seventeenth century, deep trade relations developed between the Mi’kmaq and the Europeans. The Europeans provided food, weapons and hardware in exchange for furs.

By the end of the nineteenth century, settlers and immigrants had invaded the coastal provinces. This had a damaging effect on the Mi’kmaq traditional life. These people lost their land and were forced to settle on reserves. Majority of modern Mi’kmaq are settled on reserves along the coast of Eastern Canada. The Mi’kmaq have managed to retain their Native status while at the same time being a part of the Canadian society. This has enabled them to retain some of the cultural values in the Modern Canada.

Mi’kmaq and Saudi Culture

Language

A common language is one of the distinguishing features of people who have a similar culture. In Saudi Arabia, the common language is Arabic since this is an Arab country. The inhabitants of the kingdom communicate in various variants of the language including Nejdi Arabic, Hejazi Arabic, and Gulf Arabic. Saudi Arabia is home to millions of foreign workers who reside in the country. These foreigners communicate in their native languages making Saudi Arabia a country with a wide array of languages spoken.

The Mi’kmaq people communicate in the Mi’kmaq language, which is a part of the Easter Algonquian language group. This language was widely spoken by the Natives up to the nineteenth century. However, assimilation efforts by the French and British settlers led to French and English becoming more predominant over the twentieth century. Fulford and Daigle (2007) admit that by the large, the language has been lost. Most of the modern Mi’kmaq lack proficiency in their native language. However, there have been efforts by the Mi’kmaq to revitalize the language by teaching it to the young Natives over the last decade.

Religion

Religion plays a huge role in the lives of the Saudi Arabs and the Canadian Mi’kmaq. Islam is the state religion in Saudi Arabia and almost 100% of the citizens practice this religion. Islam plays a unique role in Saudi Arabia since this country has great significance to the global Muslim community. The country is not only the birthplace of the founder of Islam, Prophet Muhammad, but it also contains important mosques and holy sites. Saudi Arabia is considered since Prophet Muhammad was born and grew up in this region. The important religious sites in the country include the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi mosque, The Masjid al-Haram mosque, Mecca, and Medina. Muslims make annual pilgrims to the various holy sites and all prayers are made facing the Masjid al-Haram mosque, which houses the Kaaba,

In the pre-European contact era, the Mi’kmaq practiced different forms of traditional religion. However, upon contact with the European, many Mi’kmaq were converted to Christianity. At the present, Christianity (specifically Catholicism) is the majority faith of the Mi’kmaq. Hornborg (2013) reveals that the Mi’kmaq Christianity is founded on the teaching of the Catholic priests.

In spite of the predominance of Christianity, Mi’kmaq spirituality still plays a part in the lives of the modern Mi’kmaq. Mi’kmaq spirituality emphasizes the strong relationship between humans and the environment. The spiritual beliefs ascertain that the spirit of the creator exists in humans, plants, and animals alike. The Mi’kmaq engage in religious ceremonies where the guidance from the Creator is solicited. Prayers are an important part of Mi’kmaq spirituality and they are offered regularly.

The art of Mi’kmaq and Saudi Arabia

The Mi’kmaq are very skilled artisans. They are most famous for their porcupine quilling. This ancient art form makes use of stiff porcupine quills to produce crafts such as moccasins, baskets, and ceremonial shirts (Hornborg, 2013). The quillwork produced by the First Tribe is very expensive due to the grueling nature of the task. Porcupine quills are also used to make jewelry such as the Mohawk and earrings. In addition to this, the Mi’kmaq are skilled in beadwork.

In this art form, beads are woven onto leather or birch bark to produce exquisite pieces. The Mi’kmaq have a rich oral narrative tradition and the art of story telling is appreciated by this First Nation (Hornborg, 2013). Traditionally, stories were used to pass down the history of the community and great storytellers were revered. The Mi’kmaq have a number of myths and legends that continue to be told today.

Saudi culture is rich in the literary art form of poetry. Janin and Besheer (2003) explain that the rich contribution in poetry is because poetry has for centuries been the highest form of art in the Arabian Peninsula. Poem composition and recital is an integral part of Saudi culture and traditional oral poetry remains popular today. An important aspect of Saudi art is that it does not include representations of living creatures by painting or sculpture.

This is due to the religious restrictions on such art forms. For this reason, traditional Saudi art entails making everyday functional objects more beautiful. One way of accomplishing this is through weaving and embroidery. Weaving can be traced back to the nomadic days when women wove carpets from goat or camel hair to make tents, carpets, blankets, and other useful items. To decorate these functional objects, geometric and floral designs are used. Some embroidery works include exquisite, flowing calligraphy of verses from the Koran (Janin & Besheer, 2003).

Music and Dance

Both Saudis and the Mi’kmaq make use of music and dance to express various emotions ranging from happiness to sadness. Music and dance is an integral part of the lives of the Mi’kmaq First Nation. These people use traditional songs and dances are used to celebrate life and important events such as marriage, death, and feasts. The Koju’a is the central traditional dance of the Mi’kmaq and it involves dancers moving energetically in a circle (Keillor & Archambault, 2013). The dancers move in a clockwise direction as they dance vigorously to traditional music. Male and female dancers participate in this dance and they are often clad in traditional attire as they engage in the dance.

Saudi Arabia has a wide range of traditional music that is unique. Maisel and Shoup (2009) explain that the uniqueness and richness of Saudi music comes from its being derived from many sources. Early interactions between inhabitants of the region and other cultures including Indians, Africans, and Egyptians led to the development of the unique Saudi music. Saudi traditional music is also poetic in nature. The desert and the sea, which are the major geographical feature of the region, serve as the inspiration for most traditional songs. Most of the Saudi dances are male-oriented due to the conservative nature of the society.

There are some similarities between the dance and music of the Mi’kmaq and the Saudis. To begin with, the traditional songs in both cultures employ antiphonal structure. This is the musical structure where a leader sings first while others respond. Among the Mi’kmaq, a rattle or a hand drum serves as the major accompaniment to the music (Keillor & Archambault, 2013). Saudis make use of percussion instruments to accompany the singing and dancing and the audience may engage in rhythmic clapping. Another similarity between Saudi and Mi’kmaq music is that both have experienced western influence.

Mi’kmaq musicians make use of European instruments including the piano and the Cello in their performances. The First Nation has also produced a number of famous rock bands such as Forever and Medicine Drum (Keillor & Archambault, 2013). Such bands have experienced success in the contemporary music scene. Contemporary music is not only common but also very popular in Saudi Arabia. Owing to western influence, a number of famous Saudi pop stars such as Mohammad ‘Abduh have emerged (Maisel and Shoup, 2009). Such singers are not only popular in the Arab region but also in Europe and North America.

Treatment of Guests

There is a similarity in the manner in which the Mi’kmaq and the Saudis treat family, strangers and friends. In both cultures, relationships are highly valued and respect and goodwill is shown to all. The Mi’kmaq are a friendly people and they are hospitable to friends and strangers alike. According to Hornborg (2013), it is considered an honor to extend hospitality to strangers and friends. Guests are always welcome to the home of a Mi’kmaq. Generosity is demonstrated by sharing food and drink with the guest. Even when the individual has little to spare, he is obliged to share it with the guests.

In Saudi Arabia, guests are valued and treated with esteem. Greetings are an integral part of interactions with guests. They are considered a sign of goodwill and respect. When friends or strangers meet, they either shake hands or hug depending on their gender. Visitors are welcome by the host and a drink is typically offered as a sing of friendliness (Janin & Besheer, 2003). Meals play a major role in interactions and they are included in most meetings. The meal is often spread out on the floor and the guests sit on carpets or rugs on the floor to enjoy the meal.

Conclusion

This paper set out to describe the culture of the Mi’kmaq and the Saudi Arabs in order to show the differences and similarities between the two. It began by providing a brief historical background of the two cultures. It then highlighted the differences in some cultural attributes including language, religion, and art. The paper proceeded to show that in spite of the differences, the two cultures have some similarities in their songs, dances, and attitude towards guests. Through this paper, a better appreciation of the cultures of the Saudi Arabs and the Mi’kmaq has been developed.

References

Fulford, G.T., & Daigle, J.M. (2007). Sharing Our Success: More Case Studies in Aboriginal Schooling. NY: Sage.

Hornborg, A. (2013). Mi’kmaq Landscapes: From Animism to Sacred Ecology. Boston: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

Janin, H., & Besheer, M. (2003). Saudi Arabia. NY: Marshall Cavendish.

Keillor, E., & Archambault, T. (2013). Encyclopedia of Native American Music of North America. London: ABC-CLIO.

Maisel, S., & Shoup, J. (2009). Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab States Today: A-J. Boston: Greenwood Publishing Group.

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