M.A. Thesis

Medicine Dream: Contemporary Native Music and Issues of Identity

Completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree MA in Music at University of Alberta, 2003. 



Identity formation and the representation of identity hold a significant place in current research. It is a particularly pressing issue in the case of Native Americans, 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 an interesting space for the study of such issues.

The relationship of place to identity is indexed in contemporary Native music via poetic texts. However, themes and musical gestures also indicate the particularity and universality of such music. These issues are examined with specific reference to the music of Medicine Dream, a contemporary Native band based in Anchorage, Alaska, whose lead singer and composer, Paul Pike, is a Mi'kmaq from Newfoundland.

Contemporary Native music often combines aspects of both traditional Native culture and mainstream pop/rock movements. Such music can be conceived of as an authentic expression of the artist's participation in two worlds, one Native and the other the dominant white, which results in a way of relating to both worlds that has been described as double consciousness.

Such double consciousness is significant in the formation of identity and is expressed in a variety of ways, including dress and performance rituals. The visual aspects of performance and the narratives that contextualize music are important for the creation of collective memory among audience members, which results in a collective identity into which individuals find expression.



Chapter One:    "mikmaqinak": Place, Identity, and Music

Chapter Two:    Authenticity and Double Consciousness

Chapter Three:  Medicine Dream and the Performance of Identity