ABSTRACT Extracurricular activities such as sports and music offer a means to glimpse the complexity of students’ experiences in federally-run boarding schools for Native children in the United States. Studies of music in residential schools typically include a mix of quantitative and qualitative sources, including “unexpected archives” such as land records, census counts, tribal archives, cultural objects and community stories. The analytical strategy of thematic analysis – an established academic tradition that is consistent with Indigenous methodologies – offers a rich and effective way to evaluate sources. The wide analytical scope can align with Indigenous research tenets including self-determination, supporting the collective good and fostering respectful relationships. Decolonisation can function as a guidepost, supporting methods of analysis that centre the students and bolster the wellness of Indigenous communities. An Indigenous episteme does not oblige a division reason and spirit; rather, it encompasses a web of contextual relationships that integrate multiple sources of knowledge.

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