Conference Papers and Presentations

June 2012

“Developing Indigenous Tourism: Approaches to Maintaining Cultural Integrity,” International Small Islands Conference, Sydney, NS, 6-9 June 2012.

At the Harris Centre Regional Workshop in the Coast of Bays in October 2006, a Mi’kmaw from the Miawpukek reserve (Conne River, Newfoundland) posed an important question: “How do we use our culture for tourism purposes while maintaining the integrity of our culture?” She was reflecting on the growth in tourist attendance and the number and variety of vendors at the community powwow since its inception in 1996. Increasingly the community is becoming concerned with the commercialization of this cultural event.

Her question drives the present inquiry into the approaches used by communities to safeguard their culture while developing it for economic gain. Focusing on the powwow event and the Exploration Centre in Miawpukek, Newfoundland, and the construction of a Heritage Park and related ventures in Membertou, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, I will outline the ways in which these two Mi’kmaw communities engage in tourism for economic development while maintaining the integrity of their culture. The approaches of these two island communities will be compared to that of other Aboriginal communities throughout Canada to identify best practices that may emerge. Employing concepts such as Urry’s (1990) “tourist gaze,” Deloria’s (2004) “expectation,” and Goffman’s (1959) regions and region behaviour, I will investigate the issues that emerge as tourists (and their expectations) interact with cultural insiders, and the negotiation of cultural display that occurs in Aboriginal spaces.

July 2011

“'Dogs don't sing that well. Cats do.': Sound, Music, and the Environment in Mi'kmaw Expressive Culture,” International Council for Traditioanl Music, St. John's, NL, 13-19 July 2011.

Sound, music, and the environment are inextricably linked in Mi’kmaw (First nation in eastern Canada) culture. As Sable has observed, many Mi’kmaw songs “mirror the sounds, rhythms and features of nature, both with words and onomatopoeically” (1996, 259). Some Mi’kmaq assert that their traditional songs were learned from birds (Wallis and Wallis 1955), while others today look to animals to inspire new creations. In Mi’kmaw legends and myths, creatures of all orders (whales, squirrels, and even clams) communicate by “singing.” The term welta’q, often used in relation to music, actually means “it sounds good” and therefore encompasses a much broader range of sounds than common in western conceptions of music.

In this paper, I examine sound, music, and the environment as they appear in Mi’kmaw expressive culture. I trace the origins and explanations of traditional songs (and their related dances), while also probing artistic expression by creatures and forces of nature as described in oral sources (for example, earthquake and thunder “dancing”). Rather than analyzing these texts as examples of mimicry or anthropomorphism, I question what they tell us about artistic communication between creatures in the natural environment and humans, how conceiving of them as such could impact environmental studies. Drawing upon conversations with and presentations by traditional singers, I begin to develop a hierarchy of animals according to their singing abilities and their value in the creation of new compositions. Drawing on Sable’s (1996) work regarding the use of traditional songs in science curriculum, I then consider how traditional and modern musical compositions promote environmental awareness and “careful listening,” while encouraging stewardship for the land.

October 2010

“'The heat from his campfire melted a nearby rock': Local Character Anecdotes about Mi'kmaw Matthew 'Mattie' Mitchell,” 42nd Algonquian Conference, St. John's, NL, 21-24 October 2010.

Matthew ‘Mattie’ Mitchell, a Mi’kmaw-Montagnais prospector and guide who lived on the west coast of Newfoundland between the mid-1800s and 1921, is the subject of many anecdotes and legends in the present. He is perhaps best known for his discovery of the Buchans ore deposits when a campfire he built melted nearby stones. Stories of his adventures ‘on the country’ often depict him as a man of extraordinary strength, endurance, and skill – he could carry a potbelly stove on his back, travel extremely long distances by foot, and hunt caribou by the light of the moon. More recently, it has been said that when his body was relocated from one cemetery to another a few years after his death, it showed no signs of decomposition.

What fuels these narratives? Who tells them and for what purposes? How might these anecdotes be located in the oral traditions of both Mi’kmaw and non-native Newfoundlanders? And, what information about intercultural relationships is embedded in their tellings? This study of anecdotes found in archival sources, private field recording collections, and print media will explore how such narratives are used in the present (see Tye 1989), as well as the vernacular attitudes embedded within them (Hiscock 2006). In particular, it will examine the role of these anecdotes in the recent resurgence of Mi’kmaw culture in the province, the reclaiming of Mi’kmaw identity, and the emergence of Mi’kmaw pride. Finally, the relationship between these stories and the traditional body of kinap narratives in Mi’kmaw culture will be investigated.

July 2010

“Sound, Place, and Identity: The Corner Brook Mill Whistle as Soundmark,” Music, Dance, and Place Symposium, St. John's, NL, 2 July 2010.

In summer 2007, while conducting maintenance on the mill’s structure, the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Mill silenced the whistle that had been part of the local “soundscape” (Schafer 1977) for more than eighty years. When the whistle did not return immediately, public outcry was voiced in the local newspaper over the loss of part of the city’s heritage. On Remembrance Day, the daily whistle was reinstated at half its previous frequency without fanfare or explanation.

While this mill whistle is an important tool that marks the passage of time, regulates the movement of bodies, and signals trouble at the mill (such as a fire), its significance to the community extends beyond the utilitarian. It plays a role in memorialization (sounding on Remembrance Day) and celebration (marking, for example, the end of WWII), and has become a familiar icon for local song-writers and authors alike.

How, then, did something easily dismissed as “noise pollution” take on such significance for the broader community? What meanings and functions does it embody and serve? This paper, a preliminary study into the soundscape of a small urban center and the role of industrial sounds in everyday life (DeNora 2000; Frith 2002), questions how place and soundscape impact and are inscribed in modern cultural expressions and produce identity. This research also contributes to the growing body of literature on occupational folklore surrounding Newfoundland paper mills (Burns 2007; Small 1999) and Newfoundland identity more generally (see Carroll 2008, Coristine 2002, Noel 2007, and Tulk 2008).

June 2010

"Reconfiguring Narratives of Colonial Encounter: Style, Stories, and Sources of the 'MicMac Square Dance'," Spaces of Violence, Sites of Resistance: Music, Media and Performance, joint conference of the Canadian Society for Traditional Music and IASPM-Canada, Regina, SK, 3-6 June 2010.

Music embodies the myriad responses to encounter, including cultural resistence, incorporation, syncretism, and maintenance (Lassiter et al. 2002). Often postcolonial metanarratives of contact and colonial encounter are couched in terms of assimilation and cultural loss, denying the potential for “transfers of knowledge . . . on both sides” (Cruikshank 2005: 9). By studying encounter through the lens of sonic diversity, it becomes clear that it is experienced, remembered, and expressed in locally‑specific ways.

Mi’kmaw fiddle traditions emerged through such processes of encounter; however, they have been indigenized through playing styles that incorporate the rhythms of the Mi’kmaw language – what Lee Cremo referred to as “Indian emphasis” (see Tulk 2009). The process of indigenization, however, is furthered through storying, legend-creation, and naming practices.

“MicMac Square Dance” appears on Minnie White’s The Hills of Home (1994) and A Crowd of Bold Sharemen’s self-titled album (2002), and is one of many in the Newfoundland fiddle and accordion repertoire. Oral history suggests that White, who grew up in St. Alban’s, learned the tune from a fiddler in the nearby Mi’kmaw community of Miawpukek, and that it may be a traditional “Ko’jua” song. The tune itself, however, appears in other non-Newfoundland and non-Native sources, such as the session tune book of O’Regan’s Irish Pub in Montreal, and at least part of the tune has been identified as a Kerry Polka (Stan Pickett, personal communication).

The purpose of this paper is to illuminate the possible sources of this tune, as well as the storying or “myth”-making that has occurred around it. Musical analysis will elucidate any stylistic features that set this tune apart from others in the transnational repertoire or are indicative of a Mi’kmaw tune tradition. Finally, this paper will consider how naming practices and story-telling reconfigure commonly held notions and commonly told narratives of colonial encounter.

March 2010

"Shifting Musical Languages: Mi’kmaw Expressive Culture as Source and Inspiration in Late Twentieth Century Classical Music," Society for American Music, Ottawa, ON, 17-21 March 2010.

The representation of diverse ethnicities and foreign cultures across various genres of western music has been the subject of much research (see Born and Hesmondhalgh 2000; Bellman 1998). In particular, studies of First Nations musical representation have focussed on the evolution of stereotyped musical gestures used to “conjure up” the image of the “Indian” (Deloria 2004: 183; see also Gorbman 2000; Pisani 1998). Despite growing engagement with issues surrounding the representation of “Others,” orchestral settings of Nation-specific music and compositions that accompany traditional stories (or tell new ones) remain salient spaces for inquiry into the musical representation of Native identity.

In the last two decades of the twentieth century, Mi’kmaw culture became the source and inspiration for several classical compositions. From the quotation of an archival recording in Macmillan’s Micmac Lullaby (1987), to the arrangement of a well known chant in Adams’ Mi’kmaq Honour Song (1997), to the newly composed material in Parker’s Kluskap: A Micmac Legend for Children (1997) and Hatfield’s Full Circle (2000), a variety of musical languages were employed by composers to represent the Mi’kmaq while achieving artistic goals. In this paper, I demonstrate the varied ways in which these composers approached representation, engaged with issues of appropriation, and (re)configured source material to tell particular stories (sometimes of the Mi’kmaq and sometimes their own). I also reflect on what these compositions have to tell us about current trends in representation, as well as relationships between composers and the people they “conjure” through musical gestures, instrumentation, and timbral effects.

July 2009

"'Singing Hard': Aesthetics, Vocal Production, and Notions of Vocal Hygiene and Health in Powwow Music," Phenomenon of Singing, St. John's, NL, 2-5 July 2009.

What happens when a singer steeped in the western art music tradition joins a First Nations powwow drum group? What set of aesthetics guides the style of vocal production to be acquired? Does she risk vocal damage by “singing hard”? Notions of vocal hygiene and health are intricately linked to the aesthetics of a particular musical genre or music-culture; timbral qualities suited to one set of repertoire may not be appropriate for another (see Diamond 2008). While the vocal production required to produce the timbres of other music-cultures may be interpreted as potentially damaging, it is more often a matter of vocal conditioning (see, for example, Goetze 2000).

Drawing upon participant observation and interviews with members of the drum group at the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre between 2004 and 2008, I investigate the aesthetics associated with intertribal powwow singing and the ways in which these ideals are communicated between members, both verbally and nonverbally. I complement these ethnographic approaches with autoethnographic reflection, critically considering how my training in techniques of western vocal production shaped my participation in the group and how my notions of vocal health contrasted with the emic perspective. The resulting study demonstrates how definitions of vocal hygiene and health are culture-specific.

June 2009

"Converging Peripheries: Musical Exoticism and the Aesthetic of Ambiguity in Walt Disney’s Brother Bear," International Association for the Study of Popular Music -- Canada, Halifax, NS, 12-14 June 2009.

Since the advent of moving picture technology, indigenous peoples and their cultures have served as source material for films. For almost as long, the misrepresentation of indigenous peoples has been criticized. This paper examines the musical representation of indigenous peoples in Walt Disney’s Brother Bear (2003) and the decisions made by composers while “scoring the Indian” (Gorbman 2000). I discuss notions of expectation (Deloria 2004) and the commodification of children’s culture as it relates to the musical representation employed in this film, while also annotating the narrative itself to trace analogous stories and their origins.

By comparing musical gestures employed in Pocahontas (1995), I demonstrate a shift from using the stereotyped gestures of exoticism in Western Art music (Pisani’s [1998] “tool-box of exotica”) to a new exoticism that features a variety of world musics: the “mysterious” sound of the Bulgarian Women’s Choir in relation to the supernatural, Motown-style music by the Blind Boys of Alabama to represent a family of bears, and the sound of a Japanese taiko drum during a diegetic scene that visually features Inuit hand-drums. My research explores the audience’s response to these diverse sonic expressions brought forth from the periphery to facilitate the telling of an ‘indigenous’ story to mainstream North America. By reviewing the film and bonus material with focus groups, I begin to map how audiences make sense of ambiguous sonic and visual elements. I conclude that incongruous imagery and sonic elements are a feature of an “aesthetic of ambiguity” employed as a musical and narrative device to transport the viewer to a different time and space.

June 2009

"With a Potbelly Stove on His Back: Local Character Anecdotes about Mi’kmaw Matthew ‘Mattie’ Mitchell," International Society for Contemporary Legend Research, Baddeck, NS, 3-7 June 2009.

Matthew ‘Mattie’ Mitchell, a Mi’kmaw-Montagnais prospector and guide who lived on the west coast of Newfoundland between the mid-1800s and 1921, is the subject of many anecdotes and legends in the present. He is perhaps best known for his discovery of the Buchans ore deposits when a campfire he built melted nearby stones. Stories of his adventures ‘on the country’ often depict him as a man of extraordinary strength, endurance, and skill – he could carry a potbelly stove on his back, travel extremely long distances by foot, and hunt caribou by the light of the moon. More recently, it has been said that when his body was relocated from one cemetery to another a few years after his death, it showed no signs of decomposition.

What fuels these narratives? Who tells them and for what purposes? How might these anecdotes be located in the oral traditions of both Mi’kmaw and non-native Newfoundlanders? And, what information about intercultural relationships is embedded in their tellings? This preliminary study of anecdotes found in both archival sources and print media will explore how such narratives are used in the present (see Tye 1989), as well as the vernacular attitudes embedded within them (Hiscock 2006). In particular, it will examine the role of these anecdotes in the recent resurgence of Mi’kmaw culture in the province, the reclaiming of Mi’kmaw identity, and the emergence of Mi’kmaw pride.

April 2009

"One Nation, Two Realities: Cultural Revitalization Among Non-status and Status Mi’kmaw Populations in Newfoundland," Atlantic Canada Studies Conference, Charlottetown, PEI, 30 April - 3 May 2009.

Mi’kmaq in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador have historically been divided in terms of status under the Indian Act, a division which has had a significant and lasting impact on the sense of a Mi’kmaw community in the province. In the urban context of St. John’s, powwow repertoires learned and mobilized for performance by non-status Mi’kmaq in the Friendship Centre Drum Group are of an intertribal and international nature. Practitioners in this setting do not have regular access to nation-specific tradition-bearers, cultural resources, or infrastructure to the same degree as Mi’kmaq living on the reserve. Indeed, by virtue of being part of a Friendship Centre, this group must respond to a mandate of inclusivity, regardless of aboriginal (or other) ancestry or status. In contrast, musical production in Miawpukek displays a marked emphasis on nation-specific song traditions. The repertoire of Paqtism’ji’j encompasses traditional Mi’kmaw songs, as well as songs of the surrounding Wabenaki nations, a tradition begun in the community by the former Sipu’ji’j Drummers. By comparing these two case studies, which hinge on dichotomies of status/non-status and rural/urban, I investigate differences in the practice and production of musical culture and probe what the localization strategies of each group tell us about notions of identity, indigeneity, community, and nation.

March 2009

"Gregorian Chant as Mi’kmaw Expressive Culture," Society for American Music, Denver, Colorado, 18-22 March 2009. Presented in my absence by Bruno Nettl.

The conversion of indigenous peoples to Christianity is often described in terms of asymmetrical power relations, employing the language of conversion and assimilation. Among the Mi’kmaq, however, it is asserted that they voluntarily adopted Catholicism in the early 1600s, a faith they have maintained for four centuries (Hanrahan 2008). Their continued observance of St. Anne’s Day and recent audio recording Migmag Rosary are only two examples pointing to the continued relevance of Christianity and hymn-singing in Mi’kmaw communities, even as (re)vitalization efforts focussed on powwow and traditional song are flourishing. It is not surprising, then, that singers commonly regard hymns as “Indian,” nor that performance practices and contexts serve to indigenize repertoires that are known transnationally (Diamond 1987; Keillor 1987).

Concentrating specifically on Mi’kmaq-Catholic traditions, I combine archival and ethnographic study with musical analysis to examine how Gregorian chants and Christian hymns become local expressions of indigeneity. In particular, I focus on the points of congruence between Mi’kmaw and Catholic ideologies and musical traditions that fostered the choice to become (and remain) Catholic. I illuminate ongoing processes of “remaking tradition” which breathe new life into devotional practices while expanding the repertoire of Mi’kmaw hymns (Smith 2006). In conclusion, I query how performances of these musical idioms nuance and reconfigure commonly held assumptions of colonial encounter and response.

May 2008

"'Hum on the Humber ': The Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Mill and Local Soundscapes," Folklore Studies Association of Canada, Sydney, NS, 22-25 May 2008.

In summer 2007, while conducting maintenance on the mill’s structure, the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Mill silenced the whistle that had been part of the local landscape for more than eighty years. When the whistle did not return, public outcry was voiced over the loss of part of the city’s heritage. Eventually a compromise was reached and the daily whistle was reinstated at half its previous frequency.

 The whistle has become a familiar icon for local song-writers and authors alike, while residents mark the passing of time by its sound. How, then, did something easily dismissed as “noise pollution” become what Schafer (1973) calls “The Music of the Environment”? How has it become part of the local soundscape (Schafer 1977; Hufford 1992) and what meanings and functions does it embody and serve in the community? This paper is a preliminary study into the soundscape of an industry town and the role of the mill whistle in everyday life (DeNora 2000; Frith 2002).

December 2007

"Teaching Culture, Singing Tradition: Mi'kmaw Music in Se't A'newey School, Miawpukek, Newfoundland," Graduate Student Research Colloquia Series sponsored by Memorial University School of Graduate Studies, 28 November 2007.

In 1984, Miawpukek (Conne River) community members gained status under the Indian Act and two years later took control of the community’s school system and curriculum. At this time, there were only three speakers of the Mi’kmaq language remaining in Miawpukek. In an effort to revive the language, a program of “Mi’kmaq as a second language” was implemented in 1986. Central to this effort was the introduction of Mi’kmaw music, traditional songs and chants, Christian hymns, and translated contemporary songs, all of which fostered increased vocabulary acquisition and improved diction.

Two decades later, the Se’t A’newey choir has recorded two CDs and participated in recording projects with other groups. The singers, drummers, and dancers have performed throughout Newfoundland at many high-profile events, including the re-enactment of the arrival of the Vikings in 2000. They have also travelled internationally to Japan, representing Canada at Expo 2005.

The present paper will focus on the way in which music and related language, custom, belief, and worldview is taught in a school curriculum. Through interviews with the music teacher and observation of cultural workshops held in the school, this study will highlight the way in which classroom education impacts cultural revitalization in a community. An analysis of one Se’t A’newey choir performance will demonstrate how the curriculum is mobilized and “performed” for a predominantly non-Native audience. This approach will illuminate the process of learning culture, as well as the way in which culture may then be used to further cultural and political goals, such as educating non-Natives about Mi’kmaw culture and giving Mi’kmaq a greater presence in the Newfoundland context.

November 2007

"From Cassette Culture to YouTube: The Role of Mediated Music in Mi'kmaw Musical (Re)vitalization," Canadian Society for Traditional Music, Edmonton, AB, 2-4 November 2007.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a group of Mi’kmaw traditionalists travelled widely and received teachings from many other Nations in western Canada and the United States. They returned to their communities with new teachings about the medicine wheel, the sweatlodge, and the powwow, among others. In an effort to document and disseminate these teachings, cassettes such as Traditional Voices from the Eastern Door [n.d] were produced. Largely non-commercial in nature, these “instructional” recordings flowed through informal networks throughout Mi’kma’ki (the traditional territory of the Mi’kmaq) and were available at cultural events such as powwows.

In Ktaqmkuk (Newfoundland), these early recordings combined with newly-made commercial and private recordings (some available online) have served as both instructional guides for burgeoning drum groups and sources for new and often more diverse repertoire. This paper will trace the recordings used as primary sources by the Sipu’ji’j Drummers in Miawpukek (Conne River), the music teacher in S’et A’newey school, and the Red Ochre Singers in St. John’s, Newfoundland, as well as the relationship that each has with the recordings and the way in which the recordings were employed. It will demonstrate the role of mediated music as a supplement to oral tradition, while illuminating the role that field-recordings may play in cultural (re)vitalization. Analysis of source recordings and current practices will reveal present-day Mi’kmaw repertoire and related customs to be the product of continued intertribal sharing, while also establishing a canon of Mi’kmaw songs.

October 2007

"'How Do We Use Our Culture For Tourism Purposes While Maintaining the Integrity of Our Culture?': Tourism, Commercialization, and the Miawpukek Powwow," American Folklore Society and Folklore Studies Association of Canada Joint Meeting, Quebec City, QC, 17-21 October 2007.

At the Harris Centre Regional Workshop in the Coast of Bays in October 2006, a Mi’kmaq from the Miawpukek reserve posed an important question: “How do we use our culture for tourism purposes while maintaining the integrity of our culture?” Since 1996 the annual Miawpukek powwow has seen growth in tourist attendance and the number and variety of vendors. Increasingly the community is becoming concerned with the commercialization of this cultural event.

Employing Deloria’s (2004) concept of expectation and Urry’s (1990) “tourist gaze,” I will investigate the Miawpukek powwow as a tourism event and consider the negotiation of cultural display in this space. Focussing on specific incidents over the past four years, as well as conversations with tourists in attendance, I will indicate specific areas of concern for the community, while describing some of the approaches taken to assert and maintain their cultural values in this context.

March 2007

"'Swing and Sway the Mi'kmaq Way': A Performance Study of the Powwow 'Tradition' in Miawpukek, Newfoundland." Society for American Music, Pittsburgh, 28 February - 4 March 2007.

Hobsbawm’s (1983) notion of “invented tradition” can refer both to traditions that are formally constructed and implemented and traditions that emerge through more informal means, quickly taking root in community practice. Such traditions may imply or overtly assert some basis for historical continuity and through repetition can play a role in shaping and strengthening collective identity.

When Miawpukek was recognized as a First Nation reserve in 1987 by the Canadian government, the community embarked upon a movement to restore language and culture. The powwow drum, powwow repertoire, and some Mi’kmaq songs were introduced to Miawpukek by a visiting Mi’kmaq drum group. An annual powwow has since been established (now in its eleventh year) and is asserted as a community and Mi’kmaq tradition with deep roots in the past.

Taking this powwow as a performance event, I will look at the ways in which the language of “tradition” is invoked in the powwow setting, particularly by the emcee of the event, but also by other participants and observers. I will analyse the ways in which powwow is referenced as being a practice based in history and/or in contemporary practice and how such language contrasts or aligns with the musical material performed at the event. This paper will demonstrate the complexity of “tradition” as a concept and as a practice, consider the social and political implications of mobilizing such practices and the language of “tradition” in a community, and consider Hobsbawm’s distinction between “tradition” and “custom” in the Miawpukek context.

November 2006

"Cultural Revitalization and The Language of Tradition: Mi'kmaq Music in Miawpukek, Newfoundland." Canadian Society for Traditional Music, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON,  3-5 November 2006.

See "Swing and Sway the Mi'kmaq Way" above.

May 2006

"First Nations Music in an Urban Context: A Culture of Sharing and Friendship," presented at the Folklore Studies Association of Canada Conference in Toronto, ON, 27-29 May 2006.

In St. John's, Newfoundland, the Native Friendship Centre is home to a flourishing Aboriginal Drumming and Dancing Group. Operating through the Centre, this group is open to members of all First Nations, as well as non-Indigenous persons with a respect for Indigenous culture. The resulting union of diverse traditions and experiences is considered by members to be a primary strength of the group. In the absence of song carriers or Elders who orally transmit cultural knowledge, the group turns to audio recordings and workshops with visiting cultural experts to assist the revitalization of First Nations culture in the capital city.

À Saint-Jean de Terre-Neuve, le Centre d'amitié autochtone [Native Friendship Centre] est le foyer d'un groupe de danse et de percussion amérindiennes. Opérant à partir de ce Centre, le groupe est ouvert aux membres de toutes les Premières Nations aussi bien qu'aux non-Autochtones manifestant leur intérêt pour la culture aborigène. L'union des traditions et des expériences diverses qui en résulte est considérée par les membres comme la force essentielle du groupe. En l'absence de porteurs de tradition de chant ou d'aînés pouvant transmettre le savoir culturel, le groupe a recours aux enregistrements audio et aux ateliers dirigés par des experts culturels invités pour appuyer la revitalisation de la culture des Premières Nations dans la capitale provinciale.

November 2005

"First Nations Music Videos: Issues of Representation." SEM at 50, Society for Ethnomusicology, 50th Annual Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, 16-20 November 2005.

The representation of identity is a particularly pressing issue in the case of First Nations Peoples, who are attempting to reassert their own identity, often in opposition to one which has been ascribed to them by the dominant culture. Contemporary Native music provides a salient space for the study of issues of representation because it often combines musical elements of traditional Native culture and mainstream pop/rock movements. The visual presentation of such music through the medium of the music video further demonstrates this fusion of cultural elements.

My study of First Nations music videos will focus on Medicine Dream, a contemporary Native musical group based in Anchorage, Alaska, whose lead singer and composer, Paul Pike, is a Mi'kmaw from Newfoundland. Pike's roots are not insignificant; they inform much of the visual component of Medicine Dream's music, including the cover art for their CDs and clip-art used throughout their website ( However; while the song text for their first music video, In This World (released 2004), contains references to the Mi'kmaq people of Newfoundland and names a prominent historical figure, Joey Smallwood, there is little visual indication of this important Mi'kmaq and Newfoundland connection.

This paper will examine the linkages between music and visual elements in contemporary Native music videos. In particular, it will explore inter-related elements of song text, music, dress, and symbol. Analysis of a video will be complimented by interviews with band members to illuminate their choices made concerning representation.

June 2005

"Moving to Toronto with the Goal of Returning Home: The Role of Place in the Career Choices and Musical Sound of a Newfoundland Band." Post-Colonial Distances: The Study of Popular Music in Canada and Australia Conference, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. Johns, NL, 24-28 June 2005.

The relationship between place and music-making has been the focus of much scholarly study in the past decade. Sara Cohen has noted that, "Music reflects social, economic, political, and material aspects of the particular place in which it is created. Changes in place thus influence changes in music sounds and styles" (1998: 287). The purpose of this paper is to present a case study of one Newfoundland band, examining this highly significant relationship of place and music, as well as the common trope of  "going away and coming back" among Newfoundland artists who frequently travel between St. John's and Toronto.

King Nancy was initially formed by Jerry Stamp and Mark Turner in St. John's Newfoundland in the late 1990s. Brad Madden and Chris Clarke were later added to the band and they released their first CD To Quitta in 2002 with funding from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council. In an effort to increase the audience for their music, the group moved to Toronto in August 2002. For musicians hoping to become successful in the music business, Toronto is, as Stamp put it, "the epicentre of music in Canada"; the opportunities for networking and entering into the music industry are greater there. There are, however, other factors that influence a band's move to a larger centre, such as the expense of travelling from the island for performances.

This paper will examine the differences between music scenes in St. John's and Toronto as perceived by members of King Nancy. Consideration of set structures, performance orders, performance fees, and the politics of sharing stage gear will illuminate some of the differences between the two cities. Further, the band's music itself will demonstrate the way in which the soundscape of a place influences the sound of one's music, both in performance style and repertoire choice.

April 2005

"A Contemporary Example of Hybridity: Medicine Dream." Aboriginal Oral Traditions: Theory, Practice and Ethics, Gorsebrook Research Institute, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, NS, 21-23 April 2005.

No abstract available at this time.

October 2004

"Defining the Parameters of World Beat and Roots Music in Community Radio." Co-presented with Gillian Turnbull. Canadian Society for Traditional Music Conference, York University, Toronto, ON, 30-31 October 2004.

The distinctions between world beat and world music have long remained ambiguous not only to those working in the recording industry, but to radio programmers faced with the task of incorporating such music into their regular broadcasting.  Toss into the mix the vague and uncertain idiom of roots music, and the DJ is confronted with the responsibility of justifying the musical selections chosen for a show formatted under these genres. 

This paper will incorporate our experience as DJs at CJSR campus radio at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.  Working under the show format of roots and world beat, we will investigate the effects such categorization has on the resulting music heard on the show.  By reconsidering the origins of the “world beat” label and how it is perceived now in community radio, we will begin to show that its separation from “world music” has significant meaning for show formatting and for the station’s audience. 

When the listener comes to community radio programming with preconceived notions of what constitutes these genres, how do we as DJs define these categories for our listeners? 

May 2004

"The Expression of Native Identity Through Contemporary Native Arts," presented at the Folklore Studies Association of Canada Conference in Winnipeg, MB, 29 May 2004.

Native identity exists in a state of constant negotiation, where the boundaries that exist between tradition and modernity, Native lifestyle and that of the dominant culture, and the old and the new are flexible. These boundaries are in perpetual flux as Natives increasingly challenge the identity that has been ascribed to them and attempt to recreate an identity for themselves. Each pairing, however, does not represent discrete categories of a dichotomy. Instead, they are labels that represent two opposites along a continuum whose definitions change depending on one’s perspective. Between these extremes is a blurred line where cross-over occurs.

It is this cross-over that may manifest musically as contemporary Native music, like that of the musical group Medicine Dream. Such music is constructed to blend elements of traditional Native music with mainstream pop and rock, in an effort to show the multiple influences that surround Native musicians. This music is the result of the attempt to negotiate one’s place between two worlds.

Focussing on the group Medicine Dream, the present paper will examine the expression of identity through music that fuses Native and pop and rock influences. Particular attention will be paid to what the musicians themselves deem to be traditional or representative of tradition. The movement towards combining multiple influences and maintaining that it is traditional music finds a comparison in contemporary Native art. The discussion of both contemporary Native music and art will be framed by concepts of a tradition of selective borrowing from the dominant culture (Champagne 1999) and two-ness of identity (Diamond 2002).

L’identité autochtone existe sous forme de constante négociation dans laquelle les frontières entre tradition et modernité, mode de vie autochtone et mode de vie de la culture dominante, ancien et nouveau, sont flexibles. Ces frontières sont en perpétuel mouvement alors que les Autochtones tentent de recréer leur propre identité. Mais entre ces dichotomies existe une ligne floue que l’on peut traverser, comme par exemple dans la musique du groupe Medicine Dream. En se penchant sur ce groupe, cette communication examinera l’expression de l’identité à travers une musique qui fait fusionner des éléments autochtones avec des influences rock et pop, ainsi que ce que les musiciens eux-mêmes estiment être traditionnel ou représentatif de la tradition. Cette discussion sur la musique autochtone contemporaine (en comparaison avec l’art contemporain autochtone) s’inscrit dans le concept de la tradition d’emprunts sélectifs à la culture dominante (Champagne 1999) et dans le concept des identités qui émergent du fait de vivre entre deux mondes culturels (Diamond 2002).

"Relations of Production in the Contemporary Native Music of Medicine Dream," presented at the Canadian Chapter of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music Conference in Ottawa, ON, 16 May 2004.

The production of music necessarily involves a set of social relationships that artists and producers must enter into to produce either a live performance or a CD. The relations of CD production are intricately linked to who owns, who controls, and who uses the means of production in a given situation. The power relations that emerge in contemporary Native music are constantly in a state of negotiation, since the roles of the artist and the producer are related to notions of cultural expertise, assumptions about genre styles, and different types of social interaction.

The present paper will examine the relations of production at play in contemporary Native music, using as its focus the Alaska-based band Medicine Dream. In particular, it will focus on the role of the band’s lead singer and composer Paul Pike, a Mi’kmaq from Newfoundland. Taking the recording studio as a field of production, attention will be paid to the manner in which Pike’s role changes between two different musical styles – rock-influenced contemporary Native music and powwow music.

Christopher Scales (2002) studied other musicians who record both contemporary Native music and powwow music, and noted that the producer tended to be the cultural expert in the realm of contemporary music, while the Native artist was the cultural expert for powwow music. In contrast, my work with Paul Pike has shown that the reverse is true for Medicine Dream – Pike is a cultural expert in the realm of popular music and defers to the judgement of his producer on powwow or traditional tracks. The reasons for this reversal are explored in this paper.

November 2003

"A Mi'kmaq in Alaska: Place, Music and Identity," presented at the Canadian Society for Traditional Music Conference in Athabasca, AB, 1 November 2003.

Contemporary Native music has much to tell about the identities of those musicians who perform it. Medicine Dream is one such musical group based in Alaska. The lead singer, Paul Pike, is a Mi'kmaq from Newfoundland; therefore, the songs sung by Medicine Dream incorporate the Mi'kmaq language and often are thematically focussed on the experience of the Mi'kmaq people.

This provides a particularly interesting area of the study of the relationship of place to identity. While Alaska has a large indigenous population, it does not include the Mi'kmaq Nation. How does music about the Mi'kmaq people sung in the Mi'kmaq language find an audience in an area that seemingly has no connection to it? I conclude that Medicine Dream's music is universally placed and intricately linked with individual identities, as well as a collective Native identity.

October 2002

"Confederation Songs of Newfoundland: Constructing Identity and Conceptualizing a Nation," presented at the Pacific Northwest Music Graduate Students' Conference in Vancouver, BC, 5 October 2002.

Music in the form of song may be used as a political tool; it ascribes an identity to a group of people and motivates them to some particular action. During the two main Confederation movements in Newfoundland (1869, 1948), songs were written both in support of the political union and against it.

These political songs, such as the Confederate anthem "Battle Song of Newfoundland" and the Independence movement’s "Anti-Confederation Song" present opposing political viewpoints; however, both appeal to the same identity ascribed to the Newfoundland people. Additionally, the Independence songs construct a Newfoundland identity in opposition to the Canadian Other. The songs of both political parties present contrasting concepts of nationhood; the Anti-Confederates promoted independence as the path to nationhood, while the Confederates claimed that the dream of being a nation would be attained through union with Canada.

The present paper will examine a representative selection of the songs from both Confederation movements in an attempt to illuminate issues of identity and nation. The identities constructed by both political groups with be investigated as a function of the Us – Them dichotomy, and within frameworks created by Wallerstein, and Rew and Campbell. The concepts of nation employed by each political group will also be explored, applying the theories of Anderson, Seton-Watson, and Barth. Concepts of the nation as an imagined community, as well as problems concerning the dissemination of these songs, will be addressed.