In this paper, we explore challenges in conveying the culturally constructed meanings of local Indigenous musics and the worldviews they manifest to students in K-12 school music classes, when foundational aspects of the English language, historical and current discourse, and English language habits function to thwart the transmission of those meanings. We recount how, in settler colonial societies in North America, speakers of the dominant English language have historically misrepresented, discredited, and obscured cultural meanings that inhere in local Indigenous musics. First, we examine three ways in which the use of English has distorted the cultural meanings of those musics. Next, we explain how historical discourses in English have intentionally undervalued or discredited the values intrinsic to those musics, also describing how some current music education discourse in English might work against the embedding of Indigenous meanings in school music education settings. We then consider additional factors distinguishing Indigenous languages from European languages (especially English) to show how a people’s “language habits” influence their perception of and thus their relationship with their natural environment. We conclude by considering the role of music education in revitalizing local Indigenous languages and musics and advancing the cultural values of their originating communities.


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pp. 24-46
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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