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MANATAKA: Women On Drum?

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  • MANATAKA: Women On Drum?



    While preparing for the upcoming 2011 Manataka Powwow, a question arose when one drummer objected to the fact that Manataka has a drum circle where women play the drum.

    "I will not play the big drum if women are going to play!" he pronounced.

    We informed him in a quite way that Manataka's drum circle of both men and women perform only sacred songs and do not play powwow songs. That did not cut any mustard with the man and while attending another powwow he loudly degraded Manataka for allowing women to even touch a drum.

    "It is not traditional! They do not know what they are doing!," he yelled.

    Okay, so this set into motion a flurry of activity to reconfirm our understanding of the history of the powwow drum. First, our extensive library of stories, legends and research failed to reveal any basis for his assertion that the ban against women on the big drum is a "traditional" belief.

    Next, we contacted a number of tribal historians and medicine elders who could not verify the validity of our friend's strong belief that women should never play the big drum. Finally, we consulted with ethnomusicologists whose exhaustive research we felt certain would finally answer the question. Nope. There is no factual basis found within "tradition" for the idea that women should not sit at the powwow drum.
    Last edited by AmigoKumeyaay; 04-05-2016, 05:36 PM.

  • #2
    However, many of the authorities we contacted did acknowledge that prohibitions against women sitting the big drum began to creep into modern powwows sometime in the early 1970's.

    We accept, respect and appreciate the practice of some tribes who have certain ceremonies where the drum is played only by men; and other ceremonies where drums are played only by women. But, we cannot accept, respect or appreciate the basis or vehemence of our friend's outright ban of women on the big drum. And, here is why:
    Pan-tribalism is the syncretic adoption of traditions from foreign communities. According to ethnomusicological researchers, Bruno Nettl, William Powers and David McAllester, since the rise of the European dominance in the Western hemisphere, American Indians adopted common identities and invented pan-tribal music, notably the powwow, peyote songs and the Ghost Dance. In this process, Eurocentric ideas and beliefs crept into indigenous practices, most notable are chauvinistic attitudes toward women.

    For the Southern Plains Indians, it is believed that the first drum was given to a woman by the Great Spirit, who instructed her to share it with all women of native nations. Therefore, Plains Indian women have an inherit right to sit the drum.

    Southeastern tribes honored women in all circles of tribal life, including playing a variety of musical instruments during all ceremonies and dances. Therefore, Southeastern tribal women are honored to play the drum.

    Northeastern tribes have a long history of women involved in all aspects of ceremonial life, dances, and tribal leadership. Women are considered the original song givers and played the drum for their people. Thus, no one can say that Northeastern women have no place to sit the drum.

    There are prophesies among several tribes relating to women and the drum.
    The drum represents the heartbeat of the Mother Earth -- the mother of all humans -- thus all drums are female and human.

    Originally, "powwow" was an Algonquin term, "pauwau" or "pauau" and referred to a gathering of medicine men and women and spiritual elders. "Pauwauing" referred to a religious ceremony, usually one of healing conducted by both men and women. At the Pauwau or powwow there is no place for racism, sexism, or any type of prejudice. Sexist behavior during American Indian religious ceremonies is outrageous and should not be tolerated -- especially in the name of false 'tradition'.

    Last edited by AmigoKumeyaay; 04-05-2016, 10:53 PM.


    • #3
      i seen women on some northern drums and canadian drums....

      as you mentioned women have inherent rights to sit on a southern plains drum......but i dont see that going over very well in oklahoma.....NO WAY!!

      i dont believe in women on the drum....but as they say "it aint where youre from its where your at" when in rome...

      i do believe people should respect local regions customs......a woman on the drum or gourd in oklahoma or in new mexico may not fly
      "I on the trail of a possible good Indian lady and she is reported to like the old way's and she to believes in big family and being at home with kids all the time"... - MOTOOPI aka WOUNDED BEAR


      • #4
        All that text was from the Manataka article. I do this because links break over time, or people have hard time pulling up websites, etc. so, was not me mentioning... been threads here before about this.

        I've filmed Rambling Rose drum up in Spokane before, so yep, if you travel around, you see different ways...


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