PORT HOOD: A class at Bayview Education Centre is lobbying local media to include more Indigenous voices.
Teacher Joyce Morrison said the idea goes back to the pre-COVID days in 2019 when her Grades 1 and 2 class visited with teacher Tiffany Gould’s Grade 1 class at the We’koqma’q First Nation school. Morrison said the two classes were pen pals for some time before the meeting.
Then after reading about residential schools back in October during Mi’kmaq History Month, the class – which is made up of 15 Grade 1 students and five Grade 2 students – wanted to know why there isn’t more Indigenous music on the radio.
In an October letter to 101.5 The Hawk in Port Hawkesbury, the class proposed the idea of playing George Paul’s “Honour Song,” and music from Kalolin Johnson, including “Gentle Warrior.”
In the letter, Morrison recalled how Johnson and other students from Eskasoni First Nation visited the Port Hood school, leaving her students “pleasantly surprised” by Johnson’s performance of “We Shall Remain.”
“All the kiddos were asking her to sign autographs. It was a priceless moment,” Morrison recalled in the correspondence.
Morrison ended the letter by pointing out that playing these songs and artists would not only support local Mi’kmaq youth and talent, but also involve broadcasting songs that are “universally enjoyed.”
“You may even be a role model for other stations,” the teacher wrote.
Morrison said the letter was unsuccessful, but the class again wrote The Hawk, as well as 98.9 XFM in Antigonish and The Giant last month, pointing out how her students responded to Indigenous music.
“They also absolutely loved the Indigenous music that I played and would often even sing along to the songs such as the ‘Mi’kmaq Honour’ song even though they did not know how to correctly pronounce the words or even what they were saying,” she wrote. “I could not believe how much my students respected and adored the songs of a different culture. When asked why we did not hear these songs on the radio, I had no answer.”
Although months passed since they started their lobby effort, Morrison noted in the letter that January was Literacy Month, which was a great time to continue their mission.
“Please keep in mind how great it would be to have Indigenous children (some of your audience members) hear their voices heard on the radio,” Morrison wrote. “With all the chaos of this past COVID, wouldn’t it be great to join our cause and make connections between cultures?”
At the same time, the class sent letters to local newspapers, including The Reporter, requesting support.
Morrison added that if the radio stations do not reply, her class is exploring other options like a petition.
“I keep telling my kiddos that their voices matter and that kids can change the world,” she added. “If we have no success, I can always ask my kiddos to imagine what the Indigenous people must feel like not having their voices heard.”