Stronger Together Builds Inter-Cultural Understanding through Traditional Drum-Making

Two students work to construct a drum

Caption: Daelynn and Jayden, students at Lansdowne-Costain Public School and members of the Good Way Club, work together to craft their drums

“The drum is the only instrument on the planet that is universal to every nation, race, and peoples,” says Oscar De Los Santos as he demonstrates to students and staff the sound and vibration emanating from a traditional frame drum. “It connects us to our ancestors, and it connects us to the heartbeat of the earth.”

De Los Santos runs Tribal Thunder, and earlier this month, his team shared knowledge of traditional drum-making and the cultural wisdom the artform holds during Stronger Together, a unique event hosted by Grand Erie’s Indigenous Education team.

“This is a day to celebrate community and build inter-cultural understanding,” said Sabrina Sawyer, Teacher Consultant with Indigenous Education. “It balances the hands-on components of drum-making with the sharing of tradition and culture.”

The event welcomed intermediate Indigenous self-identified students from across Grand Erie to come together to build community and inter-cultural understanding. It included students from Branlyn Community School, Russell Reid Public School, Teeterville Public School, Onondaga-Brant Public School, and Lansdowne-Costain Public School who were provided with the materials, instruction, and teachings to complete the construction of a drum. Students partnered up and assisted each other as they each constructed the intricate frame of the drum around a wooden hoop, and then stretched a piece of hide over it to bring it to life. As each pair completed a drum, the room erupted in celebration.

The event ties into Grand Erie's Multi-Year Plan and its Equity indicator, which works also to support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action. Increasing inter-cultural understanding and respect, and the role education has to play in working towards that goal, was an integral part of Stronger Together.

“If you want to encourage the learning of traditional Indigenous languages, get people drumming and singing,” explained De Los Santos, who has been teaching the art form for 30 years. “The drum is a way to keep us connected to each other and to all living things.”

Each student was given instruction around how to treat their drum and honour it accordingly. The workshop ended with a traditional ceremony meant to wake the drums, and officially connect them to the heartbeat of the earth.

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