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Is the drum sacred?

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  • Is the drum sacred?

    I often hear powwow singers and announcers say the drum is sacred.

    What makes it sacred?

    "Powwow drums" as we know them are a little over a 100 years old. (have you ever seen a picture of a tribe moving camp with a big ole' drum loaded on the back of the travois)?:p

    Some drums are blessed before they are put on the dance arena.

    Other than that, why is a drum sacred?????????
    Last edited by WhoMe; 07-11-2003, 05:13 PM.
    Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.

  • #2
    Have you ever heard anyone call it Grangfather??:Angry

    This may be an honest question but sometimes the facts people have make me mad cause they don't know crap!!! Or it sounds like "why is the water wet?" or "why are the coals hot?"



    • #3
      hot nsn mama


      Can't say I ever heard a drum called "Grangfather."

      But . . . I have heard it called grandfather and a few other things.

      So when did "they" start calling the drum grandfather. It had to be in the last century.

      Whatcha' think???????? :18:
      Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.


      • #4
        pay no attention to the other post. she also had to be taught. she wasn't born knowing everything. as i have been taught, the drum is sacred for many reasons. it represents the people and mother earth, it holds the spirit of the tree it's made from and the skin of the animal it's made from. it's a tool we use to express our thanks, feelings, and gratitude to the Creator. the tobacco we place on the drum before playing it is an offering to the Creator and mother earth, and we are also giving back to the earth in a sign of gratitude that which she has given to us. others may have other belifs. hope this helps.


        • #5


          Thanks for the enlightenment. I understand the tobacco offering to a ceremonial drum especially the drums from your tribe.

          But what did the tribes do before they had a wooden rim (metal or whatever)?

          The wooden rim came to the powwow tribes of the plains after 1900. Before that singers sat on the ground and beat sticks on a big raw hide.

          Was it just a "sacred" then?
          Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.


          • #6
            some are, some aren't.

            ive hear people say treat the drum like you would treat your mom.

            a good rebuttal to that would be, "do we beat our mothers with sticks?"

            I have also hear the the drum is referred to in a female sense.
            There are 2 types of people in the world...
            Really stupid people who think they are smart
            Really smart people who think they are smart.


            • #7
              Many times when we talk about the drum we think of the object that everyone sits around and hits with the sticks. We all know that the drum is the singers and everything they bring to the table.

              I enjoyed reading the comments of crowvisions and would only add that I am reminded that the drum is sacred when I hear a good song. The best singers I have heard all take good care of the drum. That means the drum itself is well cared for and they also take care of each other.

              We refer back to 100 years ago etc. Does something have to be over 100 years old to be sacred? My own mother is only 70.


              • #8
                Some say the songs are in the drum and the singers are there to bring them out.

                getting deep huh?

                It all centers around respect... somehow,someway.
                There are 2 types of people in the world...
                Really stupid people who think they are smart
                Really smart people who think they are smart.


                • #9

                  Whome, if you want real answers to your questions don't ask them on-line. Ask an olde timer, an old singer or drum keeper if you really want to know about drums.
                  One thing at a time...


                  • #10


                    Again I have to respectfully disagree.

                    Just because some one is old doesn't make them authority.

                    Just because someone has been around the drum, doesn't mean they know the history of a powwow drum.

                    Some drum keepers are honorary titles given to youngsters (male) who represent the family, clan or band.

                    Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.


                    • #11

                      Who Me, you bring up some good points, but do you really think anyone on this board would be better suited to answer your question(s) than the people I suggested?? Which goes for most of the answers given here on this board. There is a lot of the 'born again' mentioned on this board and 'assumed' traditions. I am fortunate enough to know a few people, who happen to be older, that are excellent sources of information from first hand account.

                      What I was originaly trying to convey to you was if you really want honest non B/S answers you need to seek answers from those you trust who have been around to know the real history not what happened just 30 years ago. At one time years ago some of those knowlegable people roamed and posted on this board. There are a few left but many grew tired of the disrespect, brckering and arguing about blood quantums, born again experts and newly assumed traditions and so forth.

                      Some questions may never be answered and some answers should never be trusted.
                      One thing at a time...


                      • #12
                        Yes the drum is and always will be sacred.


                        First, I'd like to address all those that are angry at his comments. Igorance of a fact should not be punishable, in fact we should see it as a duty to correct ignorance about our culture whenever and wherever it occurs. This is the core reason that powwows are no longer "Native Only". Only those that make no attempt to learn or those that refuse to learn beyond their present point should be looked upon with sadness for their loss.

                        Now to answer his question to the best of my ability, please sir ask your elders to correct me or fill in the gaps I may leave. I am not in possession of all the knowledge in the world and no claim will you ever hear me make that comes close to that.

                        The drum is sacred. It's beats symbolize the heartbeat of the earth. The songs symbolize our very prayers or tell the stories of honor from our past. Special dances and songs always have special places and meanings historically.

                        Drums have been around for as long as anyone can remember or history of native americans have been recorded or passed down. The drum's shape and size has changed in the last 150 years or so. Before then it was a small personal drum, many drummers and singers would each have a drum that they played in unison and sang together.

                        The words to the songs used to be very lyrical, meaning each word had an actual meaning in the language it was written in. When the tribes started coming together and singing and dancing together the drum then changed its shape, becoming a big communal drum that many could play at once. Also not everyone spoke the same language some songs adapted vocals, words with no precise meaning but with a distinctive sound, these "vocals" would become the normal in most songs and depending on the song has more meaning that any "word" could ever have.

                        Unlike the implication of your previous post on drum keepers, drum keepers isn't a title as much as a duty. No one owns a drum, that is why if you disrespect your drum it can be taken from you. There always is though a drum keeper, a person that does not own the drum but instead is expected to maintain it, protect it, respect it, and honor it. If they fail in these duties the drum can and will be taken from them. I saw these very thing happen to a drum keeper who disrespected the drum.

                        I hope this helps you. Please confer with your elders, who have been around longer than I and have had opportunity to learn way more than I.

                        Towodi Senvoi
                        Last edited by Towodi Senvoi; 07-15-2003, 05:16 AM.
                        Towodi Senvoi
                        The hawk that flies the night skies.


                        • #13
                          Again let me emphasize that there are A LOT of people in the powwow world who pocess incorrect information and tell this info like it is the gospel.

                          Wyat: you hit on a key word. "Trust."

                          Towodi Senvoi: You're right also. In addition to communal rawhides, many individuals did have small personal drums used in ceremony.

                          But the idea of Intertribal Singing didn't really take effect until after WWI and the urban NDN movement.

                          Remember: the government placed enemies on reservations next to each other to wipe each other out. ie Crow/N. Cheyenne, Shoshone/N. Arapaho etc. These tribes certainly would not sing together before they fought side by side to defend our country.

                          No one owns a drum?

                          Try taking away the drum away from the big boy's of Eyabay or Mystic River!
                          Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.


                          • #14

                            As a matter of fact there are documented photos of drums being passed. But they were carryed on the backs of an individuals. Along with a drum being pass so did a dance which the drum was part of went with it. Everything went with it, clothes, songs, Drum, stick, all but one of four posts of the drum stand. Which is said to be created by the tribe receiving the drum. Even today the drum in passed for one family to another upon the Osage peoples. But theses dances aren't Pow-wows either. So what you may get are folks who have seen these other dances and events and have appiled that to todays pow-wow world. Who knows.
                            Tha-ke'-tha-pi Wa-kon-ta


                            • #15
                              Tsi-wse Wa-tsi:

                              Yes, powwows and ceremony ARE apples and oranges.

                              We are trying to find out why people at a powwow address the "powwow" drum as sacred.

                              I whole heartedly agree when Jim Pepper, Barly Delano and Little Jim passed the drum to the Wahxahkoli Wahzhazhe (Pawhuska District of Osages) in the mid 1880's, it was paid for handsomely with gifts, ceremony and prayers. The ceremonial drum IS sacred.

                              But today each individual drum group owns one or more drums that they travel from powwow to powwow with. In this context, drums are owned and taken far from their homelands.

                              Because these drums and drum groups travel from powwow to powwow, older drum protocol is loosened. ie. Drums touch the ground, are sometimes unattended, are eaten around during dinner break, have women sitting around them during breaks etc. etc.

                              Even the best known drum groups contribute to these types of behavior.
                              Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.


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