A topic was brought up to me about learning about accommodations and inclusivity around learning and performing music. I realized there are two concepts I haven’t discussed yet – decolonization and indigenization. Decolonization is the ongoing cultural, psychological, and economic liberation of Indigenous people with the goal of achieving Indigenous sovereignty — the right and ability of Indigenous people to practice self-determination over their land, cultures, and political and economic systems. Colonialism has a historical and still has a present-day impact where settlers continue to occupy land, dictate social, political, and economic systems, that exploit Indigenous people and their resources.
With this in mind, we can also start to understand the concept of indigenization. This is the concept of introducing Indigenous ideas, concepts, and practices into education, healthcare, agriculture, government…etc. These introductions will begin to open up our self-awareness that there isn’t just one “right way” to do things, and that there is knowledge and wisdom in indigenous cultural practices that have been discredited. For instance, the “Three Sister Soup” that comes from the Haudenosaunee is a dish that combines three of their main crops – maize, squash, and beans. These three crops were grown together because of the symbiotic relationship they had; Corn has a high need for nitrogen, and beans produce a high amount of nitrogen. Climbing beans need something to climb and the corn stalk is a great natural trellis. Squash plants spread and provide a natural weed cover and moisture-retaining shade for the other plants. (https://www.thetablecfc.org/recipe/three-sisters-soup)
Another example can be watched in the documentary called Hollow Water. This documentary follows a small Ojibwe community near Lake Winnipeg that is reeling from an epidemic of sexual assault where the abusers have left behind an aftermath of pain, addiction, and suicide. However, the judicial system in Manitoba repeatedly fails to end this cycle of abuse. The offenders are brought back and with traditional practices, they are brought before the victims in a community healing and sentencing circle. Through this practice, the community learns to heal, reunite and create change.
When I previously wrote about Truth and Reconciliation, I always struggled with “Well, what else can I do better?” or “I have this knowledge, now what?” Not only must we listen to the stewards of this land and respect the land that we have taken from them and settled on, but we must also respect their practices and way of life before us. It’s egotistical and dehumanizing for us to believe that our way of life is proper and to force others to assimilate. The first step to creating change identifying the problems with the current system. I urge us all to think about our own lifestyles, professions, and relationships and question their origins. Through the incorporation of both concepts of decolonization and indigenization, we can open up a new understanding of the world, how we perceive it, and our beliefs about how knowledge is kept, understood and taught. In the realm of music, we can begin to break down our perceptions of pedagogy, western musical notation, repertoire, and performance. What do we perform? How do we perform it? Who is involved? Where can we perform? How do we teach how to perform? Who are the teachers? All these questions have been previously informed by the traditions taught to us by institutions that require an assimilation of ideas rather than an exploration. In order to grow, we must explore and continually question what we know, how we know it, and what has been lost in the process.
Report Submitted by Kristian Lo – Member at Large, RESOUND Choir Board of Directors