Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Truth and Reconciliation: Treaty People in Instrumental Music Education

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Truth and Reconciliation: Treaty People in Instrumental Music Education

Article excerpt


The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was implemented in 2007 as the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history. This settlement included an agreement with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada to facilitate reconciliation between those affected by residential schooling and all Canadians (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, 2017). The TRC explains that reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in this country through an awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour (TRC, 2015). In 2015, The TRC published their final report, including 94 Calls to Action to further support the reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and Canadians. In terms of educational reform, the TRC has made demands upon the Ministry of Education in the Education for Reconciliation section of the report, specifically Calls 62 to 65. This section calls for curriculum, funding, and teaching methods that support Indigenous peoples' contributions to the creation of Canada (TRC, 2015).

While the Commission implores the Ministry of Education to take action for reconciliation, educators have a collective responsibility to consider the impact of the TRC within their own classrooms (Czyzewski, 2011). Calls 62 and 63 directly affect Canadian teachers in that they are called to "teach age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Indigenous peoples' historical and contemporary contributions to Canada" and "maintain an annual commitment to Indigenous education issues, including building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect" (TRC, 2015, Calls 62 and 63). As a music teacher-researcher who works in an elementary public school in Ontario, I understand this is no simple task. My aim in this paper is not to ask music teachers to completely redesign their programs as there is a lot of positive action happening in music classrooms across the province. I ask that music teachers consider how to infuse Indigenous pedagogies in their existing programs as a step down the path toward reconciliation among Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.


Music educators who want to answer these calls to action need consider two specific aspects when enacting Indigenous pedagogy in their classroom. One is the difference between integration and infusion. Integration is considered an "add on" to an already established curriculum whereas infusion permeates the existing curriculum itself. Integrating Indigenous pedagogy further sublimates Indigenous peoples as an addition to the curriculum rather than treating the subject matter as equal (Bell, 2014). The other aspect includes focusing on the material culture of appreciation instead of the praxis of Indigenous pedagogies. Including Indigenous musics in the classroom under the guise of multiculturalism or inclusivity further separates the divide between Indigenous communities and the academy (Smith, 2005).

Studying Indigenous musics out of context becomes another form of colonization in which the material is being used to serve the needs of the academy. For example, Chung (2016) encourages educators to include Indigenous materials in the classroom through ceremonies of introduction, acknowledgement, inclusion, learning, and reconciliation in order to focus on the act of engagement instead of studying the material through a Western lens. In music education this would mean not focusing on the reproduction of musical objects, such as Indigenous songs, but rather the praxis of how students' are reflective and critical thinkers of music by becoming equal participants in the construction of Indigenous pedagogy (Green & Narita, 2015).

Engaging in Indigenous education invokes acts of critical pedagogy, calling for an examination of ideological forces that influence all aspects of lived lives, including the role of schooling (Budd, 2008). …

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