Drumming has always been, and continues to be, an important part of First Nations ceremonies, traditions and cultural practices.

A drum is one of the earliest types of instruments, first appearing as early as 6,000 BCE and being used by people all over the world, from China to Peru to Greece and Egypt.

Drums are often considered sacred amongst Indigenous peoples, representing the heartbeat of people, animals and Mother Earth herself.

According to information compiled by Northern College:

“For First Nations Peoples, the drum represents the universal heartbeat of Mother Earth, the Universal goddess and mother to us all. The first sound that was heard in the world was the heartbeat of Mother Earth. First Nations Peoples manifest this heartbeat through playing a special rhythm on the drum. This Rhythm facilitates healing and realignment of the four realms of human existence (Mental, Spiritual, Emotional and Physical) because the Creator revolves around the rhythm. The drum, when combined with the voice, creates a hum that rests between the voice and the drum and is thought to be the spirits of the Ancestors.”

The Nicola Valley encompasses some of the traditional territory of the Nlaka’pamux and Syilx peoples. While some indigenous peoples, such as the Tsimshian and Kwakwaka’wakw, make and play box drums, those used locally are round. The circle represents balance and completeness, an infinite, unbroken series of connected points. This is a common theme across cultures which is often referred to as the ‘Circle of Life’.

Drums are made by stretching an animal hide over a wooden frame until it is taught, and then lacing the underside. This holds the skin in place and also provides a handhold for the drummer. Most drums are made of cedar wood, which is relatively lightweight and easy to work with. It is also considered to have spiritual and medicinal properties that benefit the drummer.

Animal hides are often collected by the drum maker, who harvests the meat, tans the hide and then uses it to create a drum. Deer is the most popular, although you may also see drums made of elk, moose or even buffalo hide as well.

Drums range in size from small enough for a child to hold, to large enough to seat several drummers around at a ceremony or powwow.

It can take anywhere from one day to several weeks to make a drum, and they may be left plain or embellished, with the user free to paint or decorate the skin with anything that may be meaningful to them. This could be the handprints of family members, an animal with spiritual significance, or even a painted landscape.

To receive a drum as a gift is a blessing, you may even be encouraged to give away the first drum you make.

Drums are treated with the utmost respect, always properly stored, cared for and transported. Drummers may say different prayers before, during and after drumming, and offer thanks for the materials used as well as the medicine provided through drumming.