|Tim Roufs||extended search|
We have a legend about our drum too. It's more of a story, a history of how we got our drum.(1) Like with Winibozho and Windigo we kids liked hearing about how we got the drum. We'd always ask the old folks, "Grandma," "Grandpa," tell us about how we got the drum. And most generally they'd tell us the story:
Once upon a time, in the way back of the Anishinabe, the Indians, the people worked making arts, crafts, boats, canoes, beadwork, and tanned hides. One time the chiefs(2) were sitting together and everything was so quiet that one chief spoke up: "Why don't we make day-way-i-g^n, a drum? We'll make a drum, and dry it, and hit it. If anyone knows how we might make a drum he can tell us and we will all work together on it."
We have rain drums, weather drums, moccasin game drums, medicine drums, and drums for all kinds of games and play of life. Beforehand, with different tribes, in different places, on different reservations, each and everyone(5) had a drum. They danced and sang with their beautiful drums that they made out of rawhide.
Many Indians, my forefathers, had these drums for the Great Spirit. Nowadays, we still make the melodies that we made in the past. But now, these days, we also have factory-made drums. Indians now have these nice new factory-made drums. And they are tuned good. The white people have big drums and little drums; they have snare drums and they have those big bass drums. Now the Indian uses those too. Some of those new drums belong to the school band. We all go to the school band concerts to hear the orchestra bands. We go to the orchestra and listen just to hear the music and the drum.
The Indian has drums of all kinds that we work with. We have nii-mii-díi dáy-way-i-g^'n, big drums, to have our powwows. That's the drum for the dance and powwow. A powwow drum is big. That's our biggest drum, and there's a bigger tune on that drum.
Small drums have a different tune. We have two kinds of small drums, a medicine drum and a game drum, and they are two different things. We have small drums for games, like m^-kI-zI'n-^-taa-gáy day-wáy-i-g^n, the moccasin game drums. We always pound the drum during the moccasin games.(6)
One Grand Medicine drum is small. That's what we use to make medicine.(7) We make medicine with that drum, and we doctor with it. That's a Grand Medicine drum. A small medicine drum is naa-náhn-da-wii-i-wáy day-wáy-i-g^n. J^-náhn-d^-wii-wáy is the doctoring; dáy-way-i-g^'n, that's the drum. We usually use those small ones for medicine, but actually, you can use a medicine drum any way you want to -- but you have to hang it up where it's dry. You can't leave it lay around.
We also have large medicine drums. A large medicine drum, a Midewiwin drum, is mI'-tIg-w^g-kUUss'. It's kind of a kettle-shaped drum, but it's made of wood, usually with one sheet of buckskin on top. And that has a good tone. Some of those drums also have a hide on the bottom.
Another kind of medicine drum is mI-tIg-wa-kI'k, a water drum, a tall water drum. Most of them are about eighteen inches high, but some of the water drums we make medicine with are two feet high. The taller you make the drum the more different the sound is. We call it a "water drum" because there's water in it, and when they pound it they use that water to wet the hide. "Duu-aa-uu, duu--aau, du-aa-uuu" -- that's the way it sounds. With a water drum the sound will travel far enough so you could hear it a long, long way off.
I have a drum, but mine is a dry drum. Mine is a dry drum. It's not a water drum. I could sell mine for a hundred dollars. Would I be a fool if I do? Everybody said that I would be crazy to sell it. "Don't," they say.
I have no rights to make a water drum and use it. No, I can't use a water drum for my purposes. I have a drum already so I can't use another drum. If I didn't already have a drum I could make a water drum and use it -- but I'd have to lay off of other drums for a year and a half before I made it. I would have to lay off all drums so I could be new on another one. When I lay off of the other drums I get clarified by the Spirit. I get clarified and I'm free. I could make a water drum myself. I would not have to talk to others, who have drums, in order to make a water drum. But first I would have to perform for it, to give it a treat. I would have to ask the Spirit for help, so I would be able to make one right, because if I didn't ask for help it might bust and leak. I would ask the Spirit, the Spirit of the Creator of all drums, to help.
Some medicine drums have a bead that is strung across the bottom of the drum, and when you hit the drum, the hide vibrates the bead. It rattles fast a little bit, and it adds a good sound to the drum. It's more or less just the same as the water drum, but it sounds a little bit like a rattle snake. That bead signifies that a drum is for cooperation and hanging together. That braces the drum, and the hide.
We sometimes put a little bead or a little pebble inside the drum for a certain rattlement of thunder, or to call some spirit that we want as a favorite. After this bead is meditated it's going to be inside the drum all the time. Those beads rattle in the drum, p^^-^^^-^^^-^^^-^^^. They're put in there for a different sound, but they also become the soul of the drum. When we hit that drum that's the thing that will answer, because it's alive. That's the life of the drum. That's the life of the drum, or the life of a certain animal we require. That's the spirit we require to send our message. Sure, it's a messenger.(8) That's a messenger we have in there. We have to have messengers. When we can't get someplace we have a messenger to go for us. That's what a messenger does. A loon is my messenger. A loon would be my messenger. That's my dodaim, my totem.
The best thing that ever proved the Indian happy is a drum. When they were lonely, they made drums. From that time on the Spirit was near. When I hit my drum I call all the spirits in and they are with us.
When you feel blue, downhearted, when you don't feel any too well, hit that drum for stimulation. You'll feel it. It'll give you rhythm when you pound it. You'll have the feeling that you're living, and you'll be happy to know that you have it. Pounding that drum should make you feel good and be happy. Keep well with it, and if you don't feel good, ask the Great with it. Do your best, and where you hurt, the power of the Great will attack that. He'll come to help you. For sight, hearing, seen-ry,(9) sorrow, hit that drum, and you'll feel good. It's yours. Use it.
You feel good. Drum meditation stimulates. That's a great thing. It'll go right through your body. It's true. I have lots of people that know that. Lot of people, they know that it works. This is true! I'm glad the Great Spirit helps me to not drop this, that he helps me to up-hold the drum. For a long time I left it. For a while I went to churches, but I always dropped back to my old old way of my people. I saw how the old Indian did it. And that was my way.
Why do I drop back to the old meditation? I was free for it. I feel free with it. I'm free to the world with it. This is mine. It belongs to the Indians. That's where I belong, where the Indian is. I'm an Indian, I'm glad to say. I work with anybody that will work with me. And I'm happy they work with me. We all feel the same. That's why we have good friends. When people come in our area, they're good to the Indian and the Indians are good to them. We live like that. We're friendly. That's what we want, friends. So we have the drum to gather and meet one another. Our drum story tells us that.
The Great, the Great Spirit, helps us by the drum. The Great gives us the stars, the trees, and the birds that sleep at night. The Great will give us all a better day tomorrow. He will give us good luck for a better time. If we don't forget Him with the drum.
When you go on a journey, hit it. Ask the Great to be back to hit it again. Ask to be back from any journey, to wherever you leave it. You could take your drum along with you. It's yours because you want it that way. And be careful with it.
And keep the drum in a well-protected place! Respect that drum! Keep it dry! And you should have a special gown for that drum, to cover it when you're not using it, one that would fit right over it. Put something on that you like. It can be make of silk or anything. You could tie the drum in a little bundle of the best silk, you know, if you could get it. See, I haven't the money to buy that silk, so I use my best wool blanket. It don't matter, but the drum gown has to be the best material available where the drum is. You have to take care of the drum the best you know how! You're able. You respect that drum! Show your respect to it. Then it'll work. If you just throw it around, it's no good.
You can keep your tobacco and your pipe in there, under the drum gown, next to the drum. You can keep that special for when you're meditating at home for yourself. Put your hide a-side the drum. Oh boy!
So, when you make a drum it's your drum. It isn't everybody that can pound that drum. Take care of it. You'll be all right. You'll be great with it. It takes time to set in. As you practice, you'll see things.(10) You'll see things as you work with your drum. Live, live, the way you should live. Be kind, study hard,(11) and power'll come to you.(12) Study hard what this is for. It'll come to you. It'll come to you. The good comes to the good, naturally. The bad goes to the bad. That's proven. The good comes to the good. They feel good.
Friends feel good when they see you. You hit that drum. Then you go ahead, you ask The Great. There it is! Ask what you want to ask. Everybody will look and see that you have something to stop for. You have something to stop and look at you for. They'll think this is right. They'll like to talk to you when you talk decent.
If they want to joke, let them have a little joke. You joke with them too. Just how they play, you play along with them. That's life. That's it, because this belief doesn't stop you. You go along with your friends. They all know you. Sure, they don't stop joking just becase you believe in the drum.
Sometimes you should go without food and drink before you hit that drum. Sometimes you should fast. Sometimes, that special evening you're fasting, you sit and think of the day, think of the future, think of the stars, think of the sun.(13) You'll feel good. You give that drum a hit, with song, the best you know how. That's all it takes. But do that for your drum only. You'll feel good. It's your power. We believe in that. That's the history of that drum.
How did that drum come to be? It came natural! You have to have a drum. The drum is the heartbeat of our people. In the olden days we heard it far and near, and everything was good. The children were happy when they heard the drum. They had a high spirit, and everything went along fine when they meditated with a drum.
I love to hear drums. All different tribes, all different nationalities, enjoy hearing drums. And I know in this great country we all love to hear drums. We love to perform with the drum, and sing. And with these sessions we meet new friends. We meet strangers that we have never seen before. They make friends with us. They ask us questions and we ask them questions. We gather!(14) We enjoy ourselves! We celebrate with the drum. A drum is a great stimulation, a great thing for the people, I think, and everybody else feels it too. I could see that in my past.
The Indians that carry a drum in the north here are good-hearted people. That drum reminds us every spring, fall, and winter that we have to thank for everything we have. You'll receive more that way.
A drum is a great thing.
The ownership of the drum has to be in that community where the drum was made, where the drum was first hit. That's where it belongs. The chief of that area is the one that has the drums. Everything about a drum was discussed with the chief before any action was done. The great chief An-dah-bi-tang from Pine Point would always discuss the feast, and the drums. We had great chiefs in my time. Besides An-da-bi-tang we had Mukwa-nii-gañse, "Little-Bear-Trap" from Bear Island, Bobolink and Frank White from Five Mile Point, B^h-awah-say-sii, Old Man Bullhead from Squaw Point, and White-Cloud from Sugar Point. White-Cloud was a great chief.
The chief of the drum selects six drummers altogether. The drum leader hands the singers the sticks that belong to that drum, and then they belong to that drum. Sometimes the one that gets the drum stick takes it home and hands that stick to someone else in their house. And sometimes they leave it there, in the drum leader's house.
One of the six guys around the drum is the lead singer. The others are the assistants. They're the singers. The leader of that group is the oo-gii-máa dáy-way-g^n-n^'g, that means the head of the drum committee. He's the o-gii-máag of the drums. That title signifies the ownership of the drum, but he's not alone in owning that drum. It's more like he's the president of the drum. In the White way, that's the way you'd say it. He's the chief of the drum; he's the president. And it's up to him to select six drummers for the drum -- if he wants to.
The drum members are supposed to up-hold the songs and pound the drum. They're the drummers of that drum, for any doings. The chief selects them to belong to the drum. Each member of the drum has a job on the drum. And when their drum is going to a feast, if they belong in that drum, the drum members have to go with the drum to sing for the dance. When there's a feast and a drum goes, the drum members are all supposed to go to it, but how many go all depends on how far away they keep the drum. But any drum goes just so far. If the chief can't get all of the selected of six drummers to sing at a feast, volunteers would come in on that drum and help.
The drum that's the "nearest liver" to the feast is always supposed to be there at the feast. When the members of the local drum get to the feast they have to start the drums a-going. The chief of the local drum committee doesn't have to be there all the time, but he's the starter of the powwow. When they start, everybody joins. They donate their songs. They donate their time. Some of them believe their ways of drumming are for the Spirit. That's why they say, "I don't want any pay for singing." When their time for singing and pounding the drum is up, they can let the Inger drum, or another honor drum, take over.
Sometimes we have two or three drums at a powwow, sometimes four drums. Sometimes we have three and four honor drums come in a bunch and help take over the singing and drumming responsibility. Wherever the drum committees are invited to sing, any one of them that could sing would join in and take a turn. Each drum gets to step in and sing a few minutes. That gives the other drum committees time to relax a little piece. Sometimes the chief of one drum committee goes to the announcer and tells him that he's ready to take his drum out for the session. Each drum committee brings its own drum. If Inger has a drum, they bring it in. When it's their turn, they go over there and start the Inger drum. The Inger drum takes over. Later on, the Sugar Point drum takes over. And, later on, when the other drums get tired, the local drummers have to start up their drum again.
Each drum has its own committee, its own group. And while we were tuning one drum the other drum committees would get their drums a-going. Then another drum would come in, and they continued singing like that. That way helped the local committee and the drum owner. They have to help him, and hear him, and do what the local drum owner decides. They have to work with what he decides, because that's his drum. Whatever he says, the committee should be ready to do, for the better.
They sure worked good together with the additional honor drums coming in. Just think how that works. Just think how smart they were to do those things! They must have been pretty smart.
If the drum committee is going good they'll make a special dance for some meeting place at a certain time of the year. They have certain types of dances during the year. At times they have a feast and do things like select the women to carry the hoops on their shoulders during the dance. Belonging to the dance means belonging to the drums.
We use that drum to ask the Great for happiness. The Great helps on the drum. If you believe in the drum, that's your religion. We have the privilege of believing what we want to believe in in this country. We can believe in religion, any religion. And we're proud to say it, providing its good, good religion to make you good. We have teachings about the drums. We tell one another, "You be careful. You belong to the drum club." They might be a drummer or singer. If they are, we will tell them, "If you say too much you might lose your voice."
The committee on the drum discusses things with the chief of the drum. They always discuss, but the chief of the drums decides what songs they're going to give. He also announces what to do with the drum. When the drum needs retuning, the chief of the drum committee is the one who tells one of the committee to tune it.
I was one of them that tuned the drums. I was appointed by the Indians to do that. At one time I was on the Bena drum. We joined Bena from Sugar Point on Leech Lake. These boys(15) at Bena were discussing their celebration. They said, "Leech Lake, we want you for the drum tuner. We want you to tune the drums. That's all you have to do." They had their own drum tuner too, so I had time off when I worked with the Bena drum. When that drum was getting flat the chief of the drum would call in another drum. We had to tune that drum, especially in the evening.
I normally belonged to a drum at Sugar Point. I was the carrier of that drum. I was supposed to carry it and tune it. We had two or three drums in a big celebration, and when one went flat I'd tune it. I had the privilege of being the drum carrier. I would take that drum to tune it, and when I'd take it, nobody could say anything. Whether they're taking their turn at singing or not I can take that drum up. If they're not drumming right, in tune, I can take that drum. That's my privilege. They can say nothing. I can go in there and take that drum anytime. I'd say, "That's enough," and they'd have to quit. Even the owner can't say no. I'd say, "I'm taking the drum." I can do that because I belong to it. And then I'll give them another drum, and I'll go heat up this drum by the fire. It would heat up and come back to its tuning. Then, after that, other one would go flat, and I'd go take it out to tune and put the first one back in. That's what I did when I belonged to the drum at Sugar Point.
I have a drum down home. They had been asking me for two years to make a drum for the community hall, for our community center. Our chairman of the local council asked me to make a drum. He kept asking me to make a drum. So I answered them. So when I called our chairman of the local council up one day and said, "Wayne,(16) I have the drum," he said, "I'll be right there."
I waited for them to give me a hide, but they didn't give me a hide. So I ran into a boy that had a hide. He has cattle. So I said, "I'll give you two dollars for that hide." It was a calf hide, a bull hide, you know. We use bull hide now, if we can get it. Nowadays some still make drums out of deer hide, but it has to be the neck of a good deer hide. I don't know how big the hide I got was, but it was pretty good size.
The chairman made a frame stool for my drum to sit on. Sometimes I use that stool, sometimes I don't. I use it to keep the drum off the ground. He has done lots for me on the drum. He hauls it around for me. Anytime he wants it, he can come and get it. He loves that drum. He looks and smiles, whole smiles, when he sees it. Yes, he's full of smiles when he looks and says, "Very good. Very Good, Paul." Nowadays it is hard to get a drum, a handmade drum by the Indian.
A lot of people asked me to make a drum. I waited a long time for somebody else to go ahead and make one, then I went ahead. When I made the drum, it didn't take me long. After I got the side-part for the drum made, a hide was given to me, even though I offered the two dollars for it. I returned their gift, with thanks, to the people.
My drum is about eighteen or twenty-four inches across. Two feet anyhow . . . I think. And it's about a foot and a half, or two high. It has a nice hide on it. I purified that hide in a solution made with roots. We used the second bark of the elm to prepare the hide. With that, the hair slides right off. We took the hair off of the hide, and we made the drum. Then I used another purification, water soluted with medicine. You don't use the brains when you're tanning drum hides. That soften hides, and you don't want soft hides for a drum. Then I rinsed it with salt. And I kept a-rinsing it. Then we pulled on it, so it would stretch. I had help from a man that knows all about the drum. He helped me. We scraped the hide, until it was ready to put on a drum. When that drum hide was pure, we laced it on. We strapped the hide over the frame, and dried it.
And it's trimmed, trimmed all around. It's wrapped in heavy canvas cloth and painted on the surface, then drawn on the top and drawn on the sides. We have a thunderbird on my drum, a skeleton of a chief for Chief Buffalo, and the designs of north, south, east, and west. And the designs that we used were hand drawings signifying the meaning of what we work by, what we believe in.
The thunderbird design is a Thunderbird that we believe in. When this drum is out we believe the Great Spirit will help us. We believe that to beat that drum will help us with the Great Spirit. The Spirit of the Thunderbird is a leader of one division of the spirits. He's the leader of that division of thunder storms, including tornados. We don't want to have them in our area to destruct, to destroy, any of our timber or housing. We believe that by asking with the thunderbird the Great Spirit will help us. The drawing on the drum reminds us of the thunderbirds, so we don't forget that there is a life, and that life is for us to live. You can't forget that there's life. You can't forget that in the past or in the future you're living with this thunderbird. The same is true for the buffalo head skeleton. And you should always remember you have the north and the south, east and west. You should remember we're in the middle, with the Great. The north and south winds will blow the purified air we live in.
Sometimes I put a tobacco bag with that drum. That's hand sewed, and it was given to me by another Indian to pin on my drum. It is a beautiful plain buckskin bag with tobacco in it.
My drum isn't a medicine drum. A medicine drum, a Midewiwin drum, is another thing. They have fur on them, and they have lines drawn on them. Those red and blue lines on a drum mean that the owner of the drum is probably a certain staff(17) at a certain stage of the Midewiwin. Maybe the drum was in two medicine doings. Maybe the drum was in two doings, or maybe they doctored two people with that. Those marks have meaning. We have meanings of that. Indians mark things. We mark with signs and everything. We have signs, but we are only supposed to say just so much about some things. And some things you ought to leave alone.(18)
We put beaver fur, ^-mI'k-waii-aan, around a medicine drum because we're proud of it and like to decorate it as much as we can. That beaver fur represents a life that was living. It represents additional life that we put in the drum. We cut and dry that skin from a living animal. This dry skin is proven. It's life. There was life in there, and there is still life in there. It's still growing out there. That fur's a messenger, and there's a message in that drum. The beaver hide means that the drum has power. The beaver's a great animal. He will dig. He's all over. He's powerful. He's a powerful animal, and he goes under water too. It's a powerful drum; that's what that beaver fur means. It means that the drum is not slow getting anywhere. The beaver's slow thinking, but he's quick in the water. For a messenger in the Indian way, he's quick. The beaver skin is respected by the Indians, and a lot of the drums have that. You can't touch a drum with beaver fur -- except for the guy that owns it, the guy that meditated it. A lot of drums you can't touch. If you fool around with a meditated drum you might destroy the air and weather. Maybe it serves that purpose. Only the one who belongs to a meditated drum can touch it. After it's initiated for a certain movement, that's respected. And we hang that drum where it's dry. We keep it dry.
Many people want to have that drum hanging on the walls of their house wherever they live. And they love the bá-gáa-do-waa-náak, the beating-the-drum-club. Wherever they go when they're called to a powwow, they take their drum sticks -- generally, they take their drum sticks. They carry those drum sticks for a souvenir of a nearby place. Now my sticks are made of cloth, but I had some made of buckskin that were donated to me for this drum. But, ha, I have to smile, someone wanted these sticks for souvenirs, and they took them.(19) They wanted them because they feel that this new drum of mine was built by me. Now they have the stick for my drum. I approved it. That's the custom of my Indians.
There are different drum sticks. One drum stick is just like a meat pounder -- that's the one of them that's curved. It has two curves, one on each end. You can use either end to beat the drum, but it's best to use the end that's padded with buckskin. The end of the stick is soft so it will not hurt the drum. These curved drum sticks belong to a certain drum you use for doctoring. A moccasin game drum stick is straight. The moccasin game stick is straight, just like any drum stick, and it's padded with buckskin, mostly. Boy they hit that drum and that rings. When they started to drum you could hear it for miles -- for miles.
The day I made my drum it was a clear day. After I made it, I meditated that drum. When I meditated the drum I took it outside of my house and I spoke to the Great Spirit in the daylight. I took that drum and said, "This drum is for a good purpose. It's for good, for good weather, for good for people, for good health, for peace on earth." I called it the "Thunderbird Drum." aa-ni-mI-kay i-b^t, that's a thunderbird drum, ya. I said, "Thunderbird please help us. Thunder of all over, please help me." I was talking to it on the porch. And when I took that thunderbird drum in the house, a cloud came up in a little bit. After I made that drum, and after talking to the spirit thunderbird drawn on the drum, I got a proof-mark.(20) Before my house it thundered right after I meditated the drum, and it thundered the night of the day I made my drum. In the afternoon, about twenty-five or thirty feet away from my house, my tree was split by the thunder. A tree thirty or forty feet west of my house now has a mark.
At that hour when my tree was split by the thunder I just felt right. I felt that all day too. I felt I was coming to that. The tree was grounded by wire, and the electricity came to the wire and hit the ground. That wire was supposed to be my clothesline. But it happened that earlier I took my clothesline down from the corner of my house, about thirty or forty feet of it. That saved my house. That saved me.
That was the answer to my request. Where did the lightning come from that split that tree?
So then, after the lightning struck the tree, I took and hit that tree three times and I answered, "OK. That's what it will be, 'The Thunderbird Drum.'" Then I had a thunderbird drawn up, and now there's a thunderbird on my drum. From then on, from that time on, the drum actually took the place of the tree.(21)
After that I remeditated the drum. I thanked the Great for the answer. That's why I took out my drum a second time when the sun was going down. I hit that, fast. I think they heard it all over here, all over Ball Club. . . . At the very moment there was darkness, I hit the drum: BANG, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. I said, "I'd like to see daylight come. Spirit, I would be happy to see the next day. I would be happy to see the day's dawn. Thanks. Good night."
And when darkness came I spoke to the Great again: "The animals that there sleep, and the stars, the moon, and the sun, all of those that have worked for us with light, I ask you to take care of us with that drum."
I sang a little song to cheer them, the spirits, with my spirit.(22)
The next day when I woke I said, "Good morning. May God bless us all.(23) Spirit, the Manitou, the Great, bless us all. All the air we breathe is pure. We feel good. It brightens us to see the freshness of the next day."
Never forget . . . , never forget . . . , never forget what you received with the help of the Great!!
That's the way we believe in things. That's what I believe in. And if I didn't do that, I would do wrong. But I think I did right by making the drum and meeting friends. Many people think a lot of my drum. I'm ready anytime to go with them to have them sing, and have a little powwow.
I showed the tree to my friends: "There's your thunder mark right there. That's proof of my drum. That's proof that it works." And that's what makes me think, and makes everybody think: "Why did that happen?"
The answer is there -- somewhere.
Later on, I took my drum to the Ball Club powwow. I brought my drum there. There was a flag pole there, next to the drummers' stand in the dancing ring, with the flag a-waving. We put my drum next to the flag pole. Of course my drum is not as big as a bass drum, but there it was.
My drum was too fresh to use at that time. My drum was too young. But my drum was there so the others would give it a meditation. There were three or four other drums that came in. Altogether we had four or five drums under the powwow stand. My powwow drum stood there beside the other drums that the singers and drummers used for the powwow. The singers took other drums to use. There were singers all around these other drums. I left my thunderbird drum beside the power,(24) next to the singers. They were nice singers and they all looked at this drum of mine. They took their drums and used them to help mine along. They meditated my drum with a song and put it aside, back below the flagpole. It was a very good song. After that I felt that they were meditating my drum with all of their songs.
There were three, four hundred attending the Ball Club Wild Rice Thanksgiving powwow celebration that day. The powwow ground seats were full, and the ring seats were full. Outside the ring was also full of people.
The announcer would say, "Number one drum, Ponemah, sing." When they were done he'd say, "Number two drum, sing. Number Two." And when they were done the announcer called on Cass Lake, and Onigum, and Inger. He called on drums from all over, or wherever they were from. And when he'd call on them, they'd sing.
After they sang their songs, I said, "Attention," in Indian. "Your attention," I said in Indian. I was speaking in the microphone with my drum sitting below the flag pole. "I'm glad that you are here singing. I thank you all who came to join the celebration that we have." I started to tell them about my drum. I was telling about what it is, and that it's for a good purpose. I said that in Indian, and then continued, "and you see the designs on my drum." I told them in Indian why we have the drum with designs. The pictures, and everything, all that stuff, reminds us of things. I said that in English.
And while I was there talking about the pictures on the drum the people could see that bird on my drum. One guy, one of the native boys that went to college, was standing there very close to me listening. I could see him on the right-hand side of the powwow ring. And this boy was watching us.
I was speaking about different things and drums. "We're glad that you're here to join us. We're so happy to meet you. Meet my friends. My friends are your friends, and let's make friends. That's what this drum's for."
And while I was talking, a bird came over my head, a thunderbird.(25) A big bird came a-flying over the ring. He came a-flying over our heads. It just flittered around my head. He sailed, and then he flipped his wings right over us. It gave a warning. He was passing through the trees right above the canopy, right over our heads. I took one glance at it. It was the same picture, pred'near the same picture, as the one on my drum. I looked up at it. I looked above. There was a black bird. But I don't think it was a crow or a blackbird. It was too big for a blackbird, too small for a crow. I figure it was aa-nii-mi-káy-bI-nay-síi, a thunderbird.
And lots of people saw that. Everybody was looking, and I know they were all glad to be here. They kept looking. They wondered what I was going to say. I just said, "Thanks. Mi-gwitch Mah-no-min. Thanks for rice. Mi-gwitch Mah-no-min." I handed the microphone over, and I went and stood on the side and looked at the people watching that. Boy they were looking! They were surprised at that! A big bird flew over, and they saw it.
I was happy about it. I was happy. That thunderbird came. Then I thought, "OK. That's a warning. That's a sign." Some laughed at that sign. But that bird is the answer. It must be some answer. It was a big bird.
The workers of my area saw that. The college boy saw it too. And when the one that was aside me announcing the drums saw that bird over my head, he got off the stand right now. He was afraid. He got off the stand. Some came up and said, "Oh, did you see that?" One of the workers, a native boy that worked here, was shocked about it. He had to come and tell me, "Did you see that?"
"Ya, I saw it. It went west," I said. "Oh, yea," I said, "that happens. They fly all over, over the ring, over the speaker's stand. It flew right over our heads." I said, "That was a crow." I told them, "Oh, that's a crow. It looked dark, black. It flew over our heads." And then I just smiled at him. It was a thunderbird.(26)
That's what I was talking about when I was telling you about signs. When I was talking about the drum and thunderbirds and how to use it, something unusual happened. Some saw it, some didn't. But those that were watching had to see it because I was standing there with that microphone and I was talking about my drum. Everybody was listening when that bird flew over.
From that time on, whether they saw the thunderbird at the powwow or not, everybody called my drum "The Thunderbird Drum."
Originally when some people found out that I had made this drum, they were afraid. They know, I figure they know, that when I say something, it comes pretty close.(27)
I went to Red Lake and spoke about my drum. I told the Red Lake drummers, "I join you. Why, I join you. I'll work with you. I want to re-collect some of these old songs that I used to know. I want to find out whether you have a tip on a fancy new tune, or the same tune, but a little more fancier. I like these songs, so I came to get the new ones you have. I'll take them back. When I go back, I want you to come and learn from us too."
So I'm proud of my drum. I'm proud of it for Ball Club and my people. I love that drum. I love to hear it. I love to hear the singers, and I like to see them use my drum at the powwow. And that's good for me and for everybody.
I was very proud of that drum, and so was our chairman, Wayne Cronin. He was bragging it up one time to Bud Tibbitts, a good friend of ours. He shouldn't have been doing that so strong, because of Indian jealousy,(28) but he was. Wayne said, "Bud, you should see Paul's drum. It's a nice drum. It's a beautiful drum. And you should see the drawings on it. You should see the thunderbird. And you can hear it two miles from Ball Club."
Bud had already seen my drum at my house when it was just made, and when it was new and just starting to dry out good. "Ya," he told Wayne, "and if you can't hear it for two miles, you certainly can smell it that far!"
It was all right that Bud said that. It kind-a reminded us not to say too much about the drum.(29) We took no offense to his good-natured ribbing. Besides, that's how he is, generally. But still, from that time on, we quit bragging up the drum.
So after that I told everybody, "When we get enough people together you'll see my drum. But don't be afraid of it. It isn't a medicine drum. It's to meditate, to meditate for a better life. It's to meditate for community work." By working with your people that's local -- your friends -- then you are approved by the community of the area you live in. I told them, "We always remember: ask for what is right and do what is right."
After I made the drum and told them that, the people were happy about it. They were gladly surprised. They all wanted to see it.
Mr. Robinson,(30) a great singer from Ball Club, was happy when I showed him the drum. We surrounded that brand new drum and looked at it, at the designs on it. They love the designs on it. The young folks looked at it. The young ladies, Robinson's daughters that looked at it, said, "That's beautiful."
He took us in his house. I sang a song with my drum and he said, "That's very good. I'll show you one. I made a drum too." Mr. Robinson, at that time, looked at my drum. He said, "I have a drum, but not that big. I have a small one." Mr. Robinson has a wonderful little drum. He had a hide and he made a smaller drum. And when he rang that drum out, when he pounded that drum -- and he knows these songs -- boy, that made me feel good!
I feel that my drum from his little drum -- it's the same as my drum is its young drum -- was meditated by a great singer. He knew that it is kind of hard to get the hide to make a drum. "And that drum," he said, "that's a good one." Mr. Robinson is an experienced singer. He's one of our leading singers. He goes all over to sing and help with the drum. Mr. Robinson hit my drum a couple of times. "Sounds good." But I felt the older the drum gets, the better it sounds, although he knows that too. We don't say that it has to be tuned right now, when it's young. It takes three months, pretty near, to come to well-cure. My drum sounds better now that it's cured. It's louder, and the hide is more sturdy. But even when it was still a young drum Mr. Robinson said that it's a good drum. So I knew that my drum would be all right to make friends with all people who come, look, and have a good time at the powwow.
"Thank you," I said to Mr. Robinson. "I didn't make it alone. I had help from Mr. Orson Weekly, my neighbor. He helped me give it the dressing and put the hand-drawing on it. And that is beautiful work he did."
Now I will not take my drum out just to show people again. I've already taken it to Robinson. If I take it up too much, that's the same as if I'm bragging with it. There's jealousy in that, Indian jealousy. They're proud of that drum, but if I take it out too much they might think I'm going too strong. I've heard Robinson's drum, and he heard mine. I think that's enough.
With the drum we call for rain at times, and at times we get an answer -- most of the time we get an answer. We work with the Great with what we believe in. We work good. We do right for others and for our future, and the future of the others.
When I hit that drum I call all the spirits in. While I'm pounding the drum I call the spirits in. I light up tobacco, and I call the spirits. While you're hitting that drum, take that tobacco. Put that tobacco in your pipe. Light that. "That's for all, for peace in mind, for everyone." If you have a fireplace, or a wood stove, put tobacco in it. Put tobacco in the stove, a handful of tobacco. If you don't have the fireplace, put the tobacco outside; just drop a pipeful outside. "That's for all. Peace. Peace of mind." Then, you hit the drum. The Spirit comes to the invitation that you give. That tobacco put out in peace is an invitation to our Great Spirit. That's the only method we use.
Well, we can put out other things too, other things that are habit forming in life. We can put out things that people like. A little food is a great thing for that too. Maybe somebody or some animal eats that food after we put it out -- that's all right. Refreshment(31) is a great thing to put out. One nip makes a good offering. Pour a little outside; pour a little by the side of the tobacco, or food.
When I drum like that, and offer tobacco like that, I feel all the spirits outside my house. I listen to hear them. I tell them, "I spoke of you." Then I mention names, in my mind. I mention my people, and ask the spirits never to let this Indian belief down. From way back the drum was for the Indian; that's why we don't like to leave it out. But it's getting so that we're losing our older class.(32) That young class, the younger class, if they take care of the drum, will find results.(33) If they take care of themselves, if they take care of the drum, they'll find results. "For you great spirits, I want to carry this drum," that's what you tell the called-in spirits -- if you believe in it.
Thunder or anything could happen if you don't ask Him, the Great Spirit, to be your guard. He's the guardian, the Great Guardian. Say something in your mind. You don't have to tell it. You can just do things in your mind. That's all it takes. And then, after while, it makes you feel good. You can rest, relax. Then the next day, you're going better. Life is pure. It's just like you're pured.(34) All the ailment, all the bad, is purified. You're body's tired of thoughts of your background, but when you hit one of those drums it pures your body. When you meditate with a drum, you see better days. You see better times. You feel good. Ya, when you do that, the spirit is with you. When you hit that drum, you're calling the spirit. It comes. There's nothing that can stop Him, but He can not be seen.
After I call in the spirits, I sing songs, special songs, for that drum meditation. It comes natural, if you practice it. The tune you have, and all that,(35) is for you. And the tunes I have are mine.(36) So I sing. I know all the spirits and everything(37) were listening. I feel it. You feel it. You feel there's a difference in you when the spirits are with you. We like to sing:
Manitu wi-ayg. Manidu wi-ayg, that means "spirit all together."
Nom gop. Ahd pay nay dayaye "Now and forever. . . ."
sha way ni mIsh shIg nom gom aapd ah day gai yaey. That means . . .
"Bless me now and forever -- with their spirit;" it's the same thing as, "bless me now."
The song means that you're giving yourself all out.(38) And when you're giving all out, you're looking for more for your people -- more freshened air, and more life to do your unfinished work. That's what those songs mean.
We ring the sound of the drum out into the pure air. And after all of this, we expect that we are heard. The sound of the drum is reason to the people. It is pureness. When you hear that, you feel well. You feel good. You have done a method for all. You have done things that you should do. You stop for the Great(39) who has handed these things to you.
That's why we hit the drum, and then the drum rings the sound, "who." That means who shall-ever hears. It isn't a word, but it's a sign we pass. It's the sound "who, whoo." When I say "who, whoo" with my drum, that is for all -- and all shall hear. It is for them.
And nah-nah means, in Indian, "something good to eat for little children." That's your nah-nah. So that's why we say "who" with "nah-nah." It is a great thanks, a thank's to the Great. That's what that song's for. It doesn't take very long for a little message like that to go through.
For the children we look back. Time has come to look back.
Each and everyone has to be busy at work, at what he believes in. You have to work with the Spirit. Without the Spirit, you can't work. When you have the Spirit in you, you can work. When you have the Great Spirit enter the place where you live, you're guarded. The Great Spirit is the one, the only one, who will help you. Without our Spirit -- which can not be seen -- you're lost. If you forget Him, then you're lost.
You have to have a spirit, and when you hit that drum the Spirit comes. When you hit that drum you know It's here. So if you get sidetracked, if you feel that your spirit is drifting so far from you, tap the drum a little bit, and it's here. That thing is here!
I believe it will be nice to use my drum any time we need it, because there aren't enough drums in the country. We like to hit the drum and meet together. With the drum we have councils and powwows and feasts. And that's why we're all learning all the time from gathering. We're finding out what the ideas of our friends and neighbors are, and what they have to say to us. If you can all come together on a council, get together and thrash out your problems, this drum will show you that there is life where you're living.
1. For further information on drums, drum ceremonies, drum legends, etc., see Frederick R. Burton, American Primitive Music: With Especial Attention to the Songs of the Ojibways (NY, 1909; reprinted, Port Washington: Kennikat Press, 1969); Frances Densmore, Chippewa Music, (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute, Bulletin of the Bureau of American Ethnology 45), pp. 1-209 (Reprinted, NY: Da Capo Press, 1972; Minneapolis, MN: Ross and Haines, 1974); Frances Densmore, Chippewa Music--II, (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute, Bulletin of the Bureau of American Ethnology 53), pp. 1-334 (Reprinted, NY: Da Capo Press, 1972; Minneapolis, MN: Ross and Haines, 1974); Basil H. Johnson, Ojibwa Ceremonies, (Toronto: McClelland and Steward, 1982); Vivian J. Rohrl, "The Drum Societies in a Southwestern Chippewa Community," Wisconsin Archaeologist, 49:3 (1968), pp. 131-137; Vivian J. Rohrl, "Some Observations on the Drum Society of Chippewa Indians," Ethnohistory, 19:3 (1972), pp. 219-225; Michael A. Rynkiewich, "Chippewa Powwows," in Anishinabe: 6 Studies of Modern Chippewa, Ed. by J. A. Paredes, (Tallahassee, FL: University Presses of Florida, 1980), pp. 31-100; Christopher Vecsey, "Midewiwin Myths of Origin," Papers of the Fifteenth Algonquian Conference, Ed. by William Cowan (Ottawa: Carleton University, 1983), pp. 445-467; Thomas Vennum, Jr. "A History of Ojibwa Song Form," in traditional Music of North American Indians, Ed. by Charlotte Heth, Selected Reports in Ethnomusicology, 3:2 (Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, Music Department, 1980), pp. 42-75; Newton H. Winchell, Ed., The Aborigines of Minnesota, a Report Based on the Collection of Jacob V. Brower, and on the Field Surveys and Notes of Alfred J. Hill and Theodore H. Lewis, (St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society, 1911), pp. 580-743.
5. Every family group, not every person.
9. Things that you see that might bother you.
10. You'll be able to see spirits, and how to use medicine, and how nature works, and you will be able to understand plants and animals, and you will be able to understand Indian power, and magic, and communictaion with the spirits, etc.
11. That is, study people and things in nature.
15. It's often common for men to refer to their male colleagues as "boys." This is true even if the "boys" are in their sixties and seventies. Within the group this is more a term of endearment than anything else.
16. Wayne Cronin.
18. Some things, especially those associated with the Midewiwin and with Indian Power should be left alone. You should not inquire about them, and, for sure, you should not "fool with" or meddle in or experiment with them.
19. They wanted Paul Buffalo's drum stick more as a relic than a souveir. A little bit of you, your soul, goes into those things that you make -- especially if the things are made out of something that itself was once living. Also going along with that is part of your power. In a sense, it's a mild form of the same power/essence transfer that accompanies the name of a person to the namesake. In this case Paul Buffalo approved of it, and notes that it is a "custom of my Indians."
20. He got a mark that was proof that the thunderbird answered his request, i.e., a lightning strike on the big tree in his yard, after he performed the ceremony on a clear afternoon.
21. The life force and power of the tree, and the power that came to the tree when it was hit by the thunderbird lightning, was transferred to the drum. The two living things became one, spiritually. And each could "take the place" of the other. The power was transferred from the thunderbird to the drum through the tree. The drum thus became doubly empowered. The tree, in a sense, also became a special or holy living thing after it was hit by the thunderbird lightning, as it became a power mediary to and co-living thing of, the drum. After this incident, Paul Buffalo often singled out this particular tree to pray to -- or, perhaps more correctly, as the focal point of his prayer to the Great Spirit and all living things.
22. Your spirits can interact with other spirits. They can cheer one another up, they can talk with each other, they can help one another, etc. All spirits can act with each other, and with humans.
24. Generally speaking the singers are also quite often very powerful people, in the sense that they quite often have special Indian powers. The drums, of course, also have considerable power. Thus Paul Buffalo is putting his drum near the center of power, and, hopefull, some of their power will rub off onto -- or in this case actually be sent into -- Paul Buffalo's drum. As Paul Buffalo says, ". . . They all looked at mine. They took their drums and used them to help mine along [i.e., gave it power]. They meditated my drum with a song. . . . [hence specially empowering it, and accepting it into the local group of drums]."
26. Jealousy is an important part of the cultures. Bragging is also most strongly looked down upon, perhaps even despised. Hence, here Paul Buffalo is trying to downplay the importance of the special sign of the bird flying over his head by suggesting that it was only "a crow." "Just smiling at him," a young, traditionally knowledgeable individual, communicates that they both knew perfectly well that it was a thunderbird, but through non-verbal and subtle verbal communication agreed to downplay the incident. Both Paul Buffalo and the individual involved here later, on several occasions, agreed to privately explain the great significance of the event.
27. If Paul Buffalo makes a prediction they know that he will usually be right. And if he calls for action, spiritually, using Indian power and medicine, what he asks for usually happens. He was considered a powerful "medicine man," and powerful "medicine men" are respected -- sometimes feared -- for what they can do if they want to, even if they have a reputation for doing only good things with their power and medicine. ". . . It comes pretty close," is used again to downplay the significance of the power and ability, and to avoid the appearance of bragging or boasting.
28. Jealousy is an important element in life.
29. Humor is very often used as a social leveling mechanism. It is used to keep individuals from getting too far out of line, and from thinking that they are any better than anyone else. Hence, "we took no offense to his good-natured ribbing," but likewise, as is clearly seen, they got the clear message that they should "quit bragging up the drum" (and hence also the owner/maker of the drum). Cf, Frank C. Miller, "Humor in a Chippewa Tribal Council," Ethnology, 6:3 (1967), pp. 263-271.
30. Mr. Ray Robinson, another important individual from Ball Club, MN, who had a home-made drum. It is necessary for Paul Buffalo to go to Mrs. Robinson's house and go through the ritual of showing him the drum. As part of the visit, Paul Buffalo explained to Mr. Robinson why he made the drum, as he had to the other individuals and groups that he presented the new drum to. It is important that everyone, especially powerful individuals, understand that the drum is made for good purposes only, and that Paul Buffalo intends no wrongdoing with his or the drum's power. Mr. Robinson, and his whole family, approves it. And he further empowers it further by playing on it. Mr. Robinson also now knows the drum and does not need to worry about it being used against him. ". . . Mr. Robinson said that it's a good drum. . . . So I knew that my drum would be all right to make friends with all people who come, look, and have a good time at the powwow. Notice that Paul Buffalo also makes sure that Mr. Robinson knows that he "didn't make it alone." Thus is is not a private or secretive project, but one openly undertaken for the good of the community. Notice also that after Mr. Robinson approves of the drum, it is never again take out ". . . just to show people again." The two main drum owners at that time in Ball Club have each approved of the others ("I've heard Robinson's drum, and he heard mine. I think that's enough.), and hence have avoided any power struggle or conflict.
31. Wine or whiskey or some other special beverage.
32. The older class are dying off.
33. They'll see that if they follow the traditional ways using the drum, and Indian power, Indian meditation, and other Indian ways, they will be very effective themselves.
35. Your drum, your prayers, your tobacco, your weasel or other animal hide, your power, sometimes your fur-wrapped hoops, etc.
36. If you dream a tune, or if it is given to you by the spirits, or if you make up a song, it belongs to you. It is your property, and others shouldn't use it without acknowledging it to be yours. Here Paul Buffalo is indicating that the song he is about to sing, and others, are his, and therefore it is all right to go ahead and sing them without any one else's permission or knowledge. Compare, for example, how he had to show his drum around and get public approval before using it.
37. All the animals, animals' spirits, all things in nature, etc.
38. You are giving whatever you have to help your people out.
39. You stop and say thanks to the Great Spirit.
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