Merrittonians wishing to go by the beat of their own drum can attend the monthly hand drum group meeting held at the Coldwater Access Centre on June 29th, one of the many initiatives supporting Indigenous culture and learning during Indigenous History Month.

The Citxw Nlaka’pamux Assembly (CNA), an Indigenous community organization made up of eight local First Nations, provides Indigenous based programming promoting Indigenous knowledge, culture, and stewardship. On top of their monthly drum group on June 29 at Coldwater Band Hall, CNA will be one of the hosts of Merritt’s annual Indigenous Peoples Day programming at Rotary Park.

“Hand drumming is a large part of a lot of our Nlaka’pamux ceremonies and traditions. For me, it came from a place of wanting to learn. I myself have my own personal hand drum, and I’m not as comfortable with it as I wish I was, and I know that’s a general feeling with a lot of people,” said Virginia Aspinall, programs coordinator with CNA.

“I wanted to create a space where beginner drummers could come together with seasoned drummers and just have a kind of fun non committal space where they can kind of become more comfortable with their drum, and just get together.”

The group is organized by Aspinall in her capacity at CNA, and while turnout has been consistent, she says there is always room for more new drummers looking to try the instrument and learn more about its cultural significance. Local elders and other seasoned drummers often lead the evening’s songs.

“I usually try to get a lead drummer or more experienced drummer present, so that they can lead us in song. A lot of the time, people know the songs but aren’t comfortable leading.”

While this time around the group will meet at the Coldwater Indian Band’s Access Centre on reserve, the group and its activities are constantly moving across the region to allow for an even distribution of opportunities for the multiple bands that CNA serves.

“We serve eight bands ranging from Merritt down through to Boston Bar, so I’m really trying to bring it to them. I’m pretty mobile right now, so I’m offering that chance to do it in their own community.”

The next drum group will be held at the Coldwater Access Centre on June 29 from 5:30 pm to 7 pm, and more information can be found by calling 250-378-1864. Merritt’s National Indigenous Peoples Day activities will take place at Rotary Park on June 21 from 10 am to 2 pm.