On April 10, two community groups in Nelson got together to awaken their drums.
Last month Indigenous families at the Kootenay Kids Society gathered for a full day with elders Ann-Marie Smith and Donna Wright, who guided them in making a traditional drum. Each participant came away with their own hand-made drum.
A few days later Smith and Wright met with the 22 members of Allison Girvan’s young adult choir Lalin, whose members also made drums.
In both groups, drum-making included not just craft and technique but also the sharing of Indigenous experience related to the drums.
“It makes people connect with their heart in a different way,” said Wright. “It is a visceral experience, it lets us know we all belong, that we have a way of connecting with our our ancestors with our heartbeat. The drum is an extension of you.”
But making the drum is not enough, said Smith. You have to ceremonially awaken it. Kootenay Kids and Lalin got together to do this at the Rod and Gun Club in Nelson on April 10.
“Today was a day of finishing up the drum, tying all those teachings together, and awakening those drums and bringing the heartbeat back into them,” Smith said.
Part of the awakening was done with song: the groups taught songs to each other, ending with all participants singing them in a large circle, each playing their newly-awakened drum.
One of Lalin’s songs was Warrior, is a Wyrd Sisters song re-interpreted by the Newfoundland Indigenous women’s vocal group Eastern Owl and choral director Kelly Walsh.
“It is about not being idle,” Girvan says, “when there are women suffering from violence, historically. It’s about missing and murdered Indigenous women, and it’s incredibly powerful.”
Lalin’s other song, Timshel by Mumford and Sons, “is about standing with, being an ally, holding hands rather than fixing, rather than swooping in and fixing.”
Girvan said the day of drum awakening “was such an amazing gift as we transition away from relative isolation, being with our close family and people that we know. This is a an illustration of how how we get together as community whether we know each other or not.”
Daniele Boily, Indigenous family support co-ordinator at Kootenay Kids, called the day “one of the most incredible, amazing experiences ever.
“We (Indigenous people) sometimes feel a little selfish when we have our things, and kind of don’t want to share them,” she said. “But if we don’t share, then people don’t know … And so getting to do this, with both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the two groups, was just amazing.”