Carleton UniversityResearch Works
Spring 2005 -- click to return to Contents
Keeping time with Aboriginal music and culture

Posted Feb. 25/05

By Leah Schnurr

Aboriginal music
Professor of Music, Elaine Keillor and
Assistant Professor of Journalism, Clealls, John Medicine Horse Kelly


For over 20 years, Carleton Music Professor, Elaine Keillor, has researched and catalogued information on Aboriginal music in Canada. This wealth of knowledge has now become the basis for a new Web site, Native Drums, a resource to teach people about the different cultures within Canada’s First People.

Featuring photos, videos, audio files, and text, the site will show the layers of musical expression used by First People and will outline the social and political importance the music has to Native communities. Keillor also hopes the site will help illustrate the diversity among Aboriginal people from one region to another.

The site’s information will come from a wide range of sources, including historical texts, biographies and accounts from First People. Keillor’s research also covers a range of disciplines from anthropology, to music, to linguistics. Carleton acknowledges the financial support of the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Canadian Culture On-line Program for its contribution to this project.

“Interdisciplinary research has always been encouraged by Carleton and that helps to stimulate the process,” says Keillor.

Activity kits that meet school standards according to provincial and territorial guidelines will also be available on the site, along with relevant teaching material. Plus, Keillor hopes it will be a way for First People to know what research has been done on their culture.

“The Web site is set up to help in researching Native culture and language, and as a way to go back to Aboriginals and be reflective,” says Keillor.

Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism, John Medicine Horse Kelly, whose Haida Aboriginal name is Clealls, is contributing an essay to Native Drums, and says this multidisciplinary approach is inherent in Native research.

“There isn’t an area that doesn’t touch on Aboriginal studies,” he says.

Kelly and Keillor co-direct the Centre for Indigenous Research, Culture, Language and Education (CIRCLE) at Carleton, an organized research unit founded in 2003, which grew out in part of the research activities of the Aboriginal Culture and Education Centre. He says this area of research is gaining a tremendous academic support base, which CIRCLE is designed to pull together.

Keillor’s work, both as an individual researcher and CIRCLE’s Co-director, is one of several strong research-based initiatives directly contributing to this assembly of academic support, and encourages respect for and co-operation with Canada’s First People.

“We’ve got good people on campus with very good vision,” says Kelly. “Speaking as one of Canada’s First People, I can say Carleton’s faculty members who work with Aboriginal issues understand our community and have a very straightforward respect for us.”



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