The Drum

book page 38 title image

In Cree, commonly referred to as "Tawagun".
In Ojibway, commonly referred to as "Tewikan".
In Sioux, commonly referred to as "Chan-che-ga".

Without the drum there would be no Pow wow.

People use different drums for various occasions. The Pow wow drum is a large drum, approximately one metre in diameter. It is the center of the Pow wow celebration that can be used to heal and unify all people. The drum represents the circle of life.

A drum is made of wood and hide, both natural materials. These materials represent honesty and sharing.

The wood comes from a tree. The tree gives life so that we can build the drum. The tree is also telling us where life comes from. Without the sun and the earth there would be no trees - no life. The Anishinabe, the people, were lowered to this earth by the hand of the creator. The tree grows up toward the creator, the source of its life and all of the life on this earth. The hide is from an animal who gives its life for the drum and in this way, represents the gift of sharing.

Once a drum has been made, it is usually given to an individual or a group. Certain people are given the responsibility or instructions in the making of the drum. It is never created as a craft or a toy. Before the drum can be sounded at a Pow wow it must be blessed through a special ceremony led by a elder or a group of elders. Once the ceremony has been completed the drum may be sounded at any Pow wow.

There are usually four or more singers around the drum. A person is usually given the responsibility of caring for the drum. He is called the drum keeper or the drum carrier.

The drumbeat is described as the heartbeat of the people. The drum itself is regarded as a sacred object to be treated with respect. Each drum has a keeper to ensure that no one approaches it under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or shows disrespect by reaching across or setting things on it.

Written by: Harold Flett

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