Music, power, and relations: fiddling as a meeting place between re-settlers and indigenous nations in Manitoba
Giroux, Monique Celine
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This dissertation examines fiddling as a meeting place between Turtle Island's Indigenous nations and Manitoba's re-settler population. Based on archival research, interviews, and fieldwork in Manitoba, it argues that fiddling both reflects the broader relationship between Indigenous nations and re-settlers (which is marked by an unequal distribution of power) and is used to remake this relationship. The first section focuses on Indigenous fiddling. Using mainstream (re-settler) newspaper articles from the early twentieth century to the present day, it examines re-settler representations of Indigenous fiddlers and fiddling; it also explores Metisfest, a contemporary Metis rendezvous that functions as a space for Metis cultural resurgence, using fiddling as a central 'draw'. The next section considers the old-time scene by providing a working definition of the style, exploring fiddle contests, and addressing a number of key tensions in the old-time fiddle community. It argues that old-time fiddling functions as an unmarked centre that reinforces an unequal relationship between nations; at the same time, it acknowledges the significant contributions made by Indigenous fiddlers to Manitoba's old-time scene. The final section focuses on the Manitoba Open Old Time Fiddle Championships, a fiddle competition that explicitly brings old-time and Metis (style) fiddling together through the inclusion of a Metis-style category. This final section points to the tension between mainstream and Metis understandings of Metis fiddling and how Metis-style fiddling (at the competition) ultimately serves to affirm the dominance of an unmarked (i.e., old-time) style of fiddling. By exploring the Indigenous and old-time fiddle scenes from varied perspectives, this dissertation uncovers the complex relationships between central Turtle Island's two main fiddle styles. It also fills a significant lacuna in the research on Manitoba's fiddle scenes and recognizes that the burden to decolonize Turtle Island should not be placed (solely) on the shoulders of Indigenous nations.