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Native American drums are undeniably the most loved Native American instruments among Native and non Indian people alike. Drums for hundreds of years have always been at the center of Indian lifestyle, forming what is the channel of religion and spirituality as well as special days where a pow wow drum is center stage.
Indian tribes in North America history have all used drums in various ways to interact with a higher power known to most as the Great Spirit. To Native people, Indian drums are much more than just decorations or nice musical instruments. American Indian drums are thought to speak to the drummer. Native drums being made in a circle represent the earth and life. The most identifiable being hoop drums and shaman drums which are Indian hand drums used in many personal healing and religious ceremonies as well as public ceremonies such as a Native American powwow.
The hide of the animal that is stretched over the ring brings with it unique characteristics of the spirit of the animal and brings a sense of life to the drum when played. Many people think of beating a drum to make a sound, but to Native drummers and those involved in modern drumming groups and drum circles, the desire is to draw out the sound. The beating drum is compared to the beating of a human heart and is said to represent the heart beat of the earth which is a belief that is classic Native American. Drums in this way become the channel to connect one’s spirit with that of the earth and the Great Spirit through out the history of American Indians.
Native American Indian drums have a rich culture and because they are so important they are used in not only music but art and dance as well. Decorating a drum becomes a very personal artwork to the owner. The Indian drummer becomes an artist and communicates impressions of his inner feelings and beliefs in his Indian art. Some American Indian tribes use animals to adorn their drums and others use geometric patterns and everything in between. In some Native cultures the drummer will place an item of personal value inside the drum to permanently join himself with his hand drum.
The different Native American images that the artwork on the drums depict is usually painted with natural earth colors taken from nature. Some are dull and others are bright coming from flowers, roots, berries, bark or herbs that are boiled to release their unique earth tones. Other Native American drums are decorated with iron oxide which is a naturally occurring red rock that can be easily crushed. When mixed with water, it produces a rich orange red dye that is much like paint and is indicative if the surrounding hillsides and rock formations like those of the beautiful Arizona red rock canyons. The region of Sedona is thought to be a special place with spiritual power like the energy created by American Indian drums.
The goal of Native American Education except for those Indian boarding schools that have tried to stamp out Native culture has always involved the sharing of beliefs through music, songs, stories and legends. It is in harmony with these methods of learning that the communication and cultural importance has been found in the use of drums. If you are interested in the spiritual aspects of life as pertain to Indian beliefs, you will get a lot out of owning and playing Native American drums.
By: Craig Chambers