Dr. Monique Giroux joined the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Lethbridge after being named a Tier II Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Indigenous Music, Culture and Politics in May 2018. The Government of Canada funded CRC project invests in institutions and their researchers in order to inspire excellence, innovation, and academic leadership, and to train the next generation by engaging students in faculty research.
An ethnomusicologist with a focus on Indigenous culture, Giroux’s research addresses Métis cultural revival and resurgence, critically exploring how music is used to negotiate relationships between Indigenous nations and settler populations. Previously, anthropologists and ethnomusicologists weren’t as interested in Métis music as they didn’t see Métis people as being “authentically Indigenous” and therefore the music was not well documented as Métis. “It might be mixed into collections of French-Canadian archives, or if its in Cree, it might be labelled Cee,” explains Giroux.
Giroux’s current research is aimed at repatriating these lost or mislabelled musics and music-related materials to Métis communities. Her work involves finding these collections, expecting to unearth around 1,000 fiddle tunes and songs, and documenting what is available and where it is available to create a more complete archive. She’ll then present the findings to Métis communities.
“Some Indigenous communities may not be interested in it if they don’t feel it is representative of who they are anymore, so that could be one response,” predicts Giroux. “But I suspect, having worked with Métis communities for a long time, that there’s a fairly significant desire to have these kinds of materials and have youth work with them. I’m hoping there will be some interesting projects that come from it because this music is not really supposed to sit in archives.”
As a non-Indigenous researcher focusing on an Indigenous research topic, Giroux works to build genuine relationships with the communities she engages. “I’ve found that many communities have been extremely welcoming, in part because I do fiddle and I spend time with people. I’m honest about who I am, that I’m not Métis, but I’m putting in the time to learn something and participating in the community and the culture.”
Giroux has endeavored to balance her research interests in ethnomusicology and Indigenous studies. While completing her PhD she noticed that ethnomusicologists were often not drawing on the work of Indigenous scholars and engaging in dialogue with these scholars. “I didn’t feel it was ethical for me to be working with Métis communities without also having that critical scholarship coming from Indigenous studies that could help inform the way I thought about the work I was doing.”
With the hopes of inspiring the next generation of Indigenous researchers and ethnomusicologists, Giroux hires Indigenous students to work with her on her research projects, training them on research methods in music and ethnomusicology and encouraging them to picture themselves in these academic positions.
“There is a recognition that it should be Indigenous people doing this work, so I think there’s pushback when people see a non-Indigenous person in an Indigenous focused Canada Research Chair, which I agree with,” continues Giroux. “That’s one of the things I’m trying to do here at the University of Lethbridge, support Indigenous students so that in the next 10 years we start seeing more Indigenous scholars able to take these positions, wanting to take these positions, so I really try to focus on supporting and training Indigenous students.”
This spring Giroux taught the first offering of Introduction to Indigenous Musics, a course that introduces students to a diverse selection of Indigenous musics, with attention to the ways in which music articulates and shapes issues of tradition and modernity, place and belonging, revitalization and resurgence, and sovereignty and self-determination. She hopes to build connections between uLethbridge and Indigenous musicians, exposing students to a wider variety of Indigenous music. Her first guest was Métis artist Moe Clark who performed a free concert at the Owl in January.
“While I hope that all students find the course and visiting artists impactful, I especially hope that as Indigenous students learn about the Indigenous musics housed in archives, and learn about the kinds of research that can be done through music, they will start taking on the role of music researchers in greater numbers,” exclaims Giroux.