top of page

The Indigenous Drum

The Mystery Behind the Powerful Indigenous Drum

Excerpt from 'The Drum' from The Northern College

The beating of the drum helps us listen to our soul so we can understand our purpose and our connection to each other in the Circle of Life. The drum is female and human. The big drum was a gift from the women to the men a very long time ago, so that men could experience a resonant connection to the Earth Mother that naturally occurs with women. This is why it has been a tribal custom (in most tribes) that women not sit at the drum or play it.

For First Nations Peoples, the drum represents the universal heartbeat of Mother Earth, the Universal goddess and mother to us all. The first sound that was heard in the world was the heartbeat of Mother Earth. First Nations Peoples manifest this heartbeat through playing a special rhythm on the drum. This Rhythm facilitates healing and realignment of the four realms of human existence (Mental, Spiritual, Emotional and Physical) because the Creator revolves around the rhythm. The drum, when combined with the voice, creates a hum that rests between the voice and the drum and is thought to be the spirits of the Ancestors. Therefore, First Nations drums are not percussion instruments per se or a toy, they are considered female and human because of their tie to the earth. When playing a drum, it should never be hammered in an aggressive way as this suggests it’s a ‘beating’, and one may never hit a woman.

One of the reasons that the earth is being destroyed at such an alarming rate is the disconnect that humans have with her. We no longer hear her heartbeat. We lose ourselves in our quest for security through the acquisition of material possessions, paying little heed to the devastating cost to the environment in our zeal to have ‘stuff’ and look ‘good’. The drum is a constant reminder of our responsibility towards the preservation and health of Mother Earth.

The Voice of the Drum

Just like humans, each drum has its own very unique voice and vibration. Each animal from which the drum is made has its own unique medicine: its spirit is part of the drum. IN order to give a drum its voice it needs to be ‘birthed’ in a sacred ceremony. Until the Drum Birthing Ceremony takes place the drum should not be played. During ceremony, the drum is first dedicated to the Creator. The drum is a sacred object and when not in use it should be shrouded in its own bag made of natural materials such as 100% cotton or animal hide. Hanging the drum on a wall as an art piece diminishes its voice. You wouldn’t hang a human on the wall to be admired, and as the drum is human it should not be put there either. The drum should always be placed skin side up as a sign of respect. Prayers are said each time the drum is used. The prayers are to ask the Creator for the ability to sing in a good way; to thank the Creator for the animal that gave its life to become the hide for the drum; for the people who hear, that they be blessed and feel good when they hear the songs played. In other words, the drum is prayed for before it comes to the person, dedicated in prayer before it is used and prayed for before each use.

Ownership of the Drum & Drum Etiquette

The drum is the exclusive property of the person who made it, purchased it, traded for it, had it given to them as a gift or prayed for it. It is not community property unless that is its purpose. If the drum belongs to an individual, then permission must be given by that individual for anyone else to even touch it, much less play it. Keep reminding yourself that the drum is human and one does not touch other humans without permission.

The Magic Of Drumming Circles

People from many different backgrounds are getting together to create connections through the sheer joy of drum rhythms. Drumming circles are the ultimate stress reducer. It is a time for everyone to get together and just be. Natural bio-chemicals in the body are released which help boost the immune system, among other things. Inner chatter is instantly quieted and a peaceful meditative state is often the result as the drum connects with your own heartbeat. Adults re-learn how to play and have fun. The drum is the ear of the Great Mystery and peace on earth becomes a reality.

Messages From the Drum

I am Mother Earth’s heartbeat and the sacred gift of Creation.

I am the universal heartbeat of the seen and unseen worlds.

I put the drummer in touch with creation itself.

I speak to all people equally and peacefully.

I fulfill and create spiritual, mental, emotional and physical balance.

I am a powerful non-verbal form of peaceful communication.

I am the practice of peace.

I am renewal, re-growth and fulfillment.

I am the pulse of the universe.

I am alert, alive and ready to move the drummer to another state of consciousness.

My top represents the sky.

My bottom represents the earth.

My stitching represents the warriors for peace who play me.

I am the ancient wisdom of the Ancestors.

The hand of the drummer is never raised in anger.

The hand of the drummer should not be raised above the heart, for I am peace.

I release tension, emotional stress and mental fatigue.

I reconnect with the natural rhythms of the drummer.

I remind you that Creation is alive and sacred.

I take you to the dream world to let your unconscious speak with your conscious in safety and harmony.

When you play with me there is a synchronization of energy, a unity and a common purpose.

When you hear the rhythm of the group drumming and contribute your beat, you are listening and playing receptive and creative at the same time. All My Relations.

Special thanks to the Northern College for 'The Drum.'

Note: Please support First Nation and Indigenous instrument makers when buying your drums.


bottom of page