Drum Teaching

Native American Drum

Native American Drum

The Drum Teaching I was told from Steeve Teeken was as follows (edits done by me):

There was a time long ago when the Anishnawbe and the Dakota shared the same hunting ground. However, there was never enough food for everyone. So the young men decided to go to war. For many years the women, children, and elders had to survive without their hunters. The men were busy becoming better warriors, or fighting, or not coming back. One young girl of the Anishnawbe tribe was particularly curious about the world. She would ask the Elders for stories of happier times. They told her that there was time when the men were not off fighting. When Pow Wows were common. When families were together. After every story should would always ask for a solution to the state of affairs. Sadly, they had no answer for her. It got to a point where Elder’s would turn around when they saw her coming.

Not too long later, the Elders gathered for a meeting. They wanted the fighting to end but had no ideas how. One Elder suggested that a young girl go fasting for four days. On the fourth day the Creator would give her an answer. They couldn’t think of no one more suitable than the inquisitive girl. Upon request, she felt a deep determination to find the solution. She promised to herself she would return from her fast with an answer.

She embarked into the woods to find her sacred fasting site. For four days she fasted in isolation with nature. Three times during the day, when the sun was rising, when it was highest and when it was setting she would take a bit of tobacco and bury it under a sacred tree and pray. She would pray to the Creator for an answer. The fourth day came and went but no answer had she received.

The story has it that she fasted from one full moon to the next. After may days had passed, she was frail, starving and wasting away. The Creator saw her suffering and decided to offer a gift. From her position on the ground, she saw a bright yellow orb descend and hover above her fasting site. She understood her prayer had been answered.

She took the orb, swaddled it in her blanket and returned to the village. The villagers, whose mind’s had created grim stories about her fate were overjoyed to see her return. They greeted her and questioned the orb. She told them her story. Then called all the warrior men to gather around it. From behind the warriors, the villagers watched. She replaced their weapons with sticks and asked them to beat the orb. From it came the deepest and most powerful sound anyone had ever heard. It shook the trees and from the Dakota village, villagers looked up to the sky. The gift from the creator was a drum.

In rhythmic harmony the warriors beat the drum at the tempo of a healthy heartbeat. In doing so their minds were brought to a time in the very beginning of their lives – while inside their mother. A renewed sense of purpose swept over them. For the first time, in a long time, they felt at peace. More determined than ever to return home to their family. With that the Anishnawbe set out to the Dakota village.

The Dakota had never been approached in this fashion. Instead of spears-first, a young and frail looking girl led the way. In her hands she held something. Once gathered, the men began boasting: what a great fighter one was, how many enemies he had killed, how far he could shoot an arrow. Only after they were all talked out did they shift their attention back to the foreign object. The girl announced how in her village, people were tired of the fighting and sad from all the loss. They wanted peace and the Creator had shown her how. She repeated what she had done to her warriors: she asked the warriors to gather around the drum and replaced their weapons with sticks. They beat the drum at a constant tempo and the vibrations shook the earth. They could feel it resonate in their bodies. The effect was overwhelming and some of the villager’s eyes welled up with tears. The Elders explained that what they heard was not too different from what they heard when they put their ear to the chest of a loved one. That they could only interpret it as a message from above. A reminder of what was important in life: family, friends and community.

The lesson has not been forgotten. Whenever a sense of distance comes between individuals, the drum brings them back together. Beating a heartbeat tempo on the drum. A reminder that togetherness in harmony heals all.