Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How The Drum Came To Be A Part Of Native American Life, Tradition And Celebration

Native American Drum History

Long ago it is said that two neighboring Native American tribes fought each other and continued for so long that no one knew what they were fighting for any more, yet still continued. 

As the years went by a woman picking cattails to make pillows with, heard the sound of yelling and loud screams coming from her band that was camped out by a lake’s edge. She hid in the cattails so long, she could not help herself to stay up any longer and fell asleep. Suddenly she was given a dream on how to make the circle strong as it once was long ago by both neighboring tribes. 

In this dream the trees spoke to her, saying, “Take what you need from us to use and bend.A hollowed out tree trunk and three trees tied over the water and a small branch for each hand to strike will help keep alive the heartbeat of all peoples.” 

Then came a deer and spoke to her and said, “I give of myself to you that you’re people and all people may live. Use my hide in a respectful way and all people’s spirit will remember their first heartbeat and come alive together once more.” 

Then an eagle came and said, "I give of myself a plume that you must tie unto this which will help heal the peoples. At the sound of your strike I will come and carry the needed prayers of all peoples."

Then a turtle came and spoke to her saying, “Your peoples will use the northern river that divides you. A nation of two will be as one nation once more." 

Then a bear came and spoke, "I carry the medicine in which to use and will show you of two medicines so your people will live". Then the bear showed her of two plants, sweet grass and sage. "With these two medicines, nations will form this hoop and heal together if respected and used in a good way." A beaver next came to her and said, "I am a builder of land and in water and with the knowledge I carry is for you to use." Then the beaver showed her three trees tied together like an arch. "With the left over material, which will be used for the tying, let it hang with the hoop tied unto it not touching the water."

As quickly as the beaver left a thunder cloud appeared and said, "I am that which destroys and gives back new life."  Then the cloud showed her two life sized male warrior figures all in their finest wear standing one on each side of a river. These warriors ran towards the hoop she was shown to make, and they hit it once only with these two branches. Each warrior holding a branch of their own to hit this hoop only once both fell to a lifeless body and a sound thunder was all around. In the nest of the thunderbeing, water was given to both and they no longer were lifeless. Then she was shown a little round stone in which was to be tied to this hoop.

In her dream she was instructed to shared these given teachings by these spirits on how to use what she was shown.

When she woke up from laying in the cattails marsh all was quiet and four days had passed. She went quickly back to her peoples and told of this dream to a holy man and others that were present. The holy man said, "It is of a good dream that must be acted out soon as possible." An announcer was sent in good terms with gifts to give, in hopes that the conflicting tribe would come as invited.

As the days passed, the holy man sent out those picking herbs and assorted medicines needed. When the tribe arrived they were once more given gifts as a welcoming gesture. Now the leaders of both bands seated themselves inside the council teepee that was erected for this occasion. Then the holy men of this band sent a messenger calling out for this women that dreamed of this strange and mysterious hoop. When she came in they purified her with sage and sweet grass and sat her their in front of all to speak of her dream.

After describing her dream a holy man stated, "This is what the dream means, the spirits you saw teaches us all that we need compassion and understanding. The trees that spoke to you, tell you of a hoop that must be made, and with it two branches carved in away that will be held in the hand and used to strike. The three trees they speak of will hold this hoop."

"A deer you saw shows that it is both beautiful and graceful, at the same time gives of itself to make a sounding heartbeat. It tells of itself, that its hide is to be stretched over this hoop by the use of a trunk that comes from the trees. Therefore holding and keeping the circle strong as was and should be." 

"The eagle shows of itself to you that with its plume feather comes a great responsibility. This responsibility is to act out this given dream or all will lose greatly by years of more conflict if not enacted out as shown. Tie this eagle plume to this hoop so all life will awaken from within and be of good spirit. As a gift in carrying out this task, it gives permission to be worn by the dreamer as well and all women, for it is the women that has been and shared this dream to us men so we can all live as one nation as once more."

"The turtle shows himself and is noted for having much wisdom. It comes to tell of which place has been chosen. A very wise choice, for the north is of the healing direction in which we must all be strong with courage and face our fears of humility. Only then will we be as humble enough to carry out this dream."

"This bear who not only is strong, is knowledgeable and respectful. The spirit of the bear guides us all in using such plants that will help us if we work with them in a good way only, or all will come back to us in way we would not like for miss using these gifts shown. Use the sweet grass to help purify and cleanse the mind, body, spirit and heart of the peoples. Then we are to use sage to give strength back to the peoples in order to continue on in the hard days ahead." 

"A lonely beaver then came and showed of how to put this all together by tying the three trees together, where one was in the middle of the river while the other two rested one each on a separate river bank. With these three trees tied at the center, it represents the cradle of which the thunderbeings rest upon. From here hangs down, not touching the water, the hoop of which will be hit only once."

"The thunderbeings that destroy and give life back appear and show that which will be, when the hoop is hit. Those two warriors represent that of a warrior that we as a people must choose from each of our own side to hit the hoop to end all conflicts between us so the people may live."

"This means that when they hit the hoop, they will pass on hopes that we as a people can revive back to be with us a nation once more. The dream teaches us that when it is completed the warriors fall and pass on. They should be then carried to a mystery purification lodge where they will live once more."

"The mystery purification lodge represents that cradle, and in it is a bedding of cedar upon the ground floor to lay on. In here at the center are grandfathers whose heated steam will breathe back into these warriors, its life force so they may live." "That round stone shown represents that of a grandfather in the lodge whose wisdom goes as far back as time can tell. So it is a spirit made by that of all the tools that which gave life and now carries with it generations upon generations of many long ago stories. These stories, are the teachings of yesterday for today, that they may live in tomorrows generation still to come."

With this the holy man finished interpreting the dream saying, "that all this is to take place in seven days time due to the number of spirits that showed." 

When concluded both the tribes then went seeking out to choose a brave warrior to represent each of their own tribe and start the building of this hoop. When the day came for this to all take place, each tribes brave warrior stood on each their separate river bank waiting for the signal to go and strike this hoop so the people may live.

With a sign of the eagle high above where the clouds were darkening and thundering they received their signal with a loud thunder clap and sound of the eagle. Both these brave warriors ran as fast as they both could knowing what was going to happen. Upon reaching the hoop, they jumped and hit the hoop at the same time and now were both lying still in the river under the hoop.

The tribes people then went and picked both these lifeless bodies up respectfully, and carried these now two brave warriors into the mystery purification lodge as instructed.

Once inside the holy men of both the tribes sang their songs and voiced their prayers to all that which created life. As they continued with their songs and prayers, they poured water upon the heated grandfathers and hit this new hoop now known and called a drum as instructed to do. They continued for four days and nights with their songs and prayers, fasting all this time.

On the fourth day soon to give up hope, the holy men could now hear the voices once more coming from the brave warriors. They came in a soft sounding voice that eventually turned louder and louder, for the brave men were now singing along inside with these holy men these songs. When all was complete, they emerged there in front of all the people to show that they can be as one nation once more. 

It is in this short story we learn, that due to a women’s strong heart to stand up and carry this message of rebuilding two conflicting nations through a dream, to both her tribe and of the neighboring tribe, peace can become a reality.

Author's Note: This history of the drum in regards to Native Americans was shared many years ago. The source requested to remain anonymous as well as the tribe.  The story comes from remembering a verbal sharing from many years ago, and it shared as accurately as the mind can recall.

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