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WOMEN DO NOT SIT THE BIG DRUM!

Written by Amanda Dale, "Sibu" Running Water Over Sacred Stone- Mi'kmaq / Metis
& Drum Carrier Strength Of Two Buffalo  (Strength Dale) Haudensaunee Six Nations

 

 

LATERAL VIOLENCE & THE BIG DRUM
First our beliefs must be understood to fully understand how serious and hurtful lateral violence in the form of name calling such as "egotistical oppressive men" ( who believe women traditionally don't drum on the big drum & uphold those traditions) has had on my family. So I'm writing this to clear up the misconceptions driven by Western perspectives permeating into our culture as First Nations peoples.
 
TRADITIONAL TEACHING (LAKOTA - ORIGINAL BIG DRUM CARRIERS)
The Big Drum was given to a woman by Creator and she was a messenger sent to gift the big drum to the men. We believe she was a sacred chosen messenger but NOT the one who created or gave the gift. This woman gave the men the big drum with the understanding that the men were sick and fighting. This drum was sent by Creator to heal them. The women are allowed to take back the big drum on condition the men were too sick to heal and are a hopeless cause. This is a decision that is of serious consequence and needs to be decided first by praying to Creator for direction.
 
WE BELIEVE THE FOLLOWING PROTOCOLS FOR THE BIG DRUM
1. At least one woman needs to be at the big drum at all times to ensure balance and protection. She wears a long skirt to stay connected to Mother Earth and to show the Great Spirit she is a woman and open to teachings from Creator.
 
2. The women's role is to stand around the men SURROUNDING them in prayer and good thoughts to ensure they are protected and allowed the time to heal. It is understood that when the men drum they are in prayer leaving them half in spirit world and half in this world. This makes them extremely vulnerable to outside influence physically & spiritually. Without the women who are powerful prayer warriors and strong in the nurturing (life giving ) gift the men would be left open to attacks. Much like the Fire Keepers role in the women's moon ceremonies women are there to support and protect. The men are unable to see or hear what is going on around them and therefore while in this state of being we as women SURROUND our men, NOT STAND BEHIND THEM IN AN OPPRESSIVE MANNER. (Western attitudes of power struggle between sexes)
 
3. Taking back the drum is counting the men as hopeless and unable to heal in the eye's of the Creator. ( Who feels they are righteous enough to make this decision without first speaking to Creator)
 
4. We believe women are an extremely powerful presence at the drum and are in no way losing their voices. In fact the women sing as loud, if not louder than the men who are surrounded by their powerful voices. In fact the men sing as high as they can at POW WOWS to honour the women who protect them.
 
5. We believe our Traditional roles are different at the big drum but are in NO way less valuable. We can only imagine what would happen if everyone (male & female) sits at the big drum and no one is there protecting against harmful influences.
 
6. There will be a vision given by Creator for the drum. The drum will be welcomed through the Elders of their community in a birthing ceremony. The drum carrier will be gifted the drum by an Elder and the drum will be living with the drum carrier and treated with respect. The drum will have an exclusive purpose ( ie. medicine drum, pow wow or other) and will be identified as a Grandmother or Grandfather drum by the way it is dressed. If these things are not present than you must be careful.
 
WESTERN CULTURE & COLONIAL INFLUENCE
Only recently a New Age Western & Colonial influence ideology has surfaced regarding our traditional roles at the drum and in our community. They perceive that our culture has degraded our women in these roles (influenced by westerners abuses). The exact opposite is true. It is about recognizing the significance and importance of our traditional roles as First Nations men & women that allows for a continued balance of our communities and homes. Without these roles our community is imbalanced & suffers.
 
Our men are less likely to heal without the big drum and therefore they cannot take their place as healthy fathers, husbands, providers and role models. Without the healing of our men, our women will be without husbands and our children without fathers. They will be unable to take their Pre-Colonial place in our communities.
 
EQUALITY
Many say that taking the drum back will bring women power and equality. This is a new age western feminist perspective. In our First Nations Traditional beliefs the women and children are equal contributors. There does not need to be a "fight for power and equality" because this fight never belonged to the First Nations peoples as our men respected our women as equals prior to contact. There was no need for "women's rights" as this is a Post Colonial fight. This is not a pre-contact condition and therefore by returning to our traditional roles, it is then we can heal. It is not our ways to take the men's healing tool gifted by Creator through the woman to heal ourselves. We were given many beautiful healing tools that are available to us at anytime we choose. We were given the waters, the moon, sage plants, the hand drum (in some cultures) and more. The men were given the drum, fire and tobacco.
 
To be PROUD of who we once were is not to be egotistical or oppressive. To preserve the memory of who we once were as a people and strive to bring some of that back is not to hurt another person. First we must use what Creator has gifted us before taking another's.
 
WHERE DO WE GET OUR TEACHINGS
We have received these teachings from Elders within our community who have been recognized by the people as Elders & can name each person we have heard these teachings from.  We can even name some of the people who taught them. This is the practice of oral tradition in the First Nations culture. It is the verbal referencing of "who taught who" that keeps the oral traditions accurate otherwise it is hearsay much like the telephone game we have played as children.  When a person references that this is a traditional teaching we have a responsibility to ask who that ELDER was and where they were from. We have to follow up on that teaching and it's accuracy prior to passing it forward.  If the person sharing this teaching is unable to pass along this information than we count this as an opinion and not a traditional teaching.
 
 We are cautious when we read the online websites who proclaim to be an "Elder" and are changing the traditions.
 
OF NOTE :   It is not a "prophecy" for women to take back the big drum.  The word prophecy itself is evidence of the western beliefs permeating our culture as the word prophecy is a biblical term used by the settlers in their Christian faith practice. 
 
2.  A Traditional Elder will avoid putting down anyone In their community and will create an atmosphere of safety for all, this includes men regardless of their behaviours.  Elders will use this opportunity to teach not scold but recently online it is a common practice for female "elders" to scold our men for the effects of the colonial attempt at genocide.
 
3.  Elders do not make decision from a place of anger or resentment which is apparent by the women asserting their right to take back the drum from our "oppressive, egotistical & abusive" men.  These are terms used to devalue and not to promote unity.  There is no place for this in our traditional roles as Elders.  Elders are to be approachable by all members of the community.   These are sexist generalizations of our First Nations men that were perpetuated by Western attitudes.  There is blame shifting being seen here whereby the effects of residential schools and genocide such as domestic violence has been displaced back onto our First Nations men.   It was the attempted genocide on our peoples that created the violence and addictions we see in our men and it was not by choice or ego that created this chaos in our community. It is the healing of the drum that Creator gave that will help mend this.
 
4.  Elders will honor the four directions in their prayer and ask Creator for the answers.  It is not up to the Elder themselves to decide to take back the big drum. 
 
5.  An Elder will consider the feelings of all members of their community; women, men, children, and animals, plant life etc.  In the case of the big drum the women who proclaim to be elders will reflect on the impact of their decision and be inclusive when making it. In the case of the big drum being reclaimed by women the decision has been based on their own experiences of oppression and not on the well being of the community as a whole. 
 
6.  It is a common practice that "Elders" who teach this ideology of taking back the drum are not teaching this in their own communities but have come from different Nations and thus far have not been confirmed as Elders in the Traditional sense.  Many followers of this new age idea are new to their cultural teachings.
 
7. Traditional Elders do not profit from the message but do accept honorariums for their work.  They are not commonly found on the internet and instead you will find an Elder in the community through referral from an aboriginal healing organization, band counsel, or word of mouth. 
 
8. Traditional Elders prefer to teach in a traditional manner respecting the oral traditions.  They do not post teachings on the internet.
 
9. Traditional Elders will host healing circles to assist in the equal voice of all members of the community.
 
PAN INDIANISM & WOMEN'S MOVEMENT
Not all First Nations pre-colonial contact were "matriarchal" and this perspective is again Western Pan Indianism.  We are not all the same as there were over 500 Nations and some had the men making decisions. It is traditionally Haudensaunee and some others who were Matriarchal but not all 500 nations. This attitude is Western perceptions of our culture as First Nations, Inuit & Metis.
 
As advocates for Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women, our Waters, our Mother Earth and our communities we stand strong in the preservation of our women, children & our men.  We stand strong in our belief that the healing of our communities begins with RESPECT.  We do not want to negate the harm done to our women in domestic violence situations and do not condone damage that has taken place as a result of the effects of residential schools and the attempted genocide on our nations. It is by the preservation of those traditional roles that we believe we can heal.  We need to keep these traditions in tact or we lose sight of the very people we strive to return to precolonial influence.  The men know how to use the drum and are using it.  It is not the men on the drum we need to be worried about.
 
Written by Amanda Dale, "Sibu" Running Water Over Sacred Stone- Mi'kmaq / Metis & Drum Carrier Strength Of Two Buffalo  (Strength Dale)  Haudensaunee Six Nations
 

Additional Viewpoints:

"Women Cannot Touch My Drum!"  -  http://www.manataka.org/page2414.html

Women and the Drum by Shannon Thunderbird -   http://www.manataka.org/page1169.html

 


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