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Old 11-20-2010, 04:20 PM   #1
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Question Are drums sacred?

I was in a recent meeting where there is a proposal to have a music room where kids can come and beat on Native drums from different tribes. Among these would be a powwow drum and Iroquois water drum.

I did not say anything, but thought I would put this proposal on line to get some feedback.

To the best of my knowledge, this activity would be unsupervised.

What do you think? Good idea or not?
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Old 11-20-2010, 06:13 PM   #2
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Wait, and please correct me if I'm in error - but isn't one of the teachings for the thunder drums is that the men who play them must treat it as they would a woman? They are not to beat the drum heavily and in anger but with love and gentleness? How is the music room going to prevent the kids from whaling on the drums? Second and again I may be in error if this isn't applied to southern folk's hand drums and the Mohawk water drum, but don't you offer a gift to the drum before you wake it up? Are they implying that these drum will never be allowed to sleep (or wake up for that matter)?

Why not put together a bucket drumming kit... I'm sure Rubbermaid isn't going to mind. Kids get to make their own beat and they might actually not cause anyone/nation harm (except for flying sticks).

Bucket drumming vid
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Old 11-21-2010, 05:26 PM   #3
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Bad idea. Who Me who you work for that comes up with this?

Besides the crazy factor of a buncha kids with anything that makes noise, having various drums is a bad idea.

Maybe better idea would be those press button demos museum people are so fond of- ya know have the various drums behind glass with some pictures of folks singing and what have ya then hit a button and a song plays. Seems so much better.
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Old 11-22-2010, 10:50 AM   #4
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Wow Nelly!! This is a bad idea. Not only are there certain protocals for when and how to use the drum but my understanding is a Grandfather should never be left alone in a free for all room.

We experienced a very similar scenario at my school and there was a big outcry from the local community.

First, a drum needs a keeper not to be left abondoned in some room.
Second, how do they know if people are not clean and using that drum (this is the drum keeper's responsibility)
Third, this is a mis-appropriation of Indigenous culture and spiritual traditions.

I will stop here...all I can say is that you know it is wrong otherwise you wouldn't have posed the question and now it is time to speak up. Good Luck and if you meet resistance find someone who is knowledgable and can share with this group all of the reasons why this is wrong.
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Old 11-23-2010, 10:31 AM   #5
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So is it NOT okay for children to randomly beat on a Haudensaunee drum or powwow drum?

Please let me know so that I can pass on your comments to the committee?
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Old 11-23-2010, 11:12 AM   #6
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Just a general museum practices observation:

It seems a bit odd to me that Native American culture is always presented in an experiential way: beat the drum, make the bead necklace, dress-up.... I was just asked to help find a storyteller for an event at a local parochial school, that had make a headband and necklace as one of their activities. And I've seen my share of dress up in pilgrim clothes and try to spin some yarn approaches to presenting dominant culture history. But, I've never seen them let kids put on a cossack and make their own hosts. But, boy, do they want to let those kids bang on a drum. The practice seems to set a pattern of help-yourself to non-European culture. It also presents Native culture as a subject suitable for child's play.
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Old 11-23-2010, 12:14 PM   #7
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Just nailed it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OLChemist View Post
The practice seems to set a pattern of help-yourself to non-European culture. It also presents Native culture as a subject suitable for child's play.
I couldn't agree more with these sentiments.

I can think of no benefit in allowing this, regardless of the type of drum. It only confuses education with recreation.

Having said that, it doesn't mean that every drum is necessarily sacred in every context, but different drums can raise complex subjects that require some level of teaching and understanding/respect. Such a process requires time and supervision--things not really conducive to a walkthrough exhibit.
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Old 11-23-2010, 12:24 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OLChemist View Post
Just a general museum practices observation:

It seems a bit odd to me that Native American culture is always presented in an experiential way: beat the drum, make the bead necklace, dress-up.... I was just asked to help find a storyteller for an event at a local parochial school, that had make a headband and necklace as one of their activities. And I've seen my share of dress up in pilgrim clothes and try to spin some yarn approaches to presenting dominant culture history. But, I've never seen them let kids put on a cossack and make their own hosts. But, boy, do they want to let those kids bang on a drum. The practice seems to set a pattern of help-yourself to non-European culture. It also presents Native culture as a subject suitable for child's play.
Wow, OLC! I think you hit that museum/school nail right on the head!!
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Old 11-23-2010, 04:43 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by park View Post
I couldn't agree more with these sentiments.

I can think of no benefit in allowing this, regardless of the type of drum. It only confuses education with recreation.

Having said that, it doesn't mean that every drum is necessarily sacred in every context, but different drums can raise complex subjects that require some level of teaching and understanding/respect. Such a process requires time and supervision--things not really conducive to a walkthrough exhibit.
I was wondering about that - not having been raised around the drum or the arena...

Is the drum sacred in and of itself, or is it consecrated ceremonially to make it sacred?

Even if the former is the case, I don't see any benefit in letting a bunch of kids bang on a drum unsupervised.

As far as what OLC said, I agree. I was relieved that none of my kids had to deal with the "dress like an Indian or Pilgrim" scenario at school.

On the other hand, there are some hands-on things that have been done respectfully - the Heard Museum in Phoenix has some very nice, simple craft activities at some of the tribe-specific exhibits within it.
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