Students feel the beat of First Nation culture

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Okotoks students heard some stories that not only came from the heart, but with the beat of humans’ most important muscle.

The members of Eden Valley’s Spotted Rock were the lead drummers at a drumming circle at Westmount School on Dec. 18.

“We believe that this drum is alive and it has a spirit of its own,” said Spotted Rock member Travis Jimmyjohn. “They say the drum also represents the heart-beat of Mother Earth. When you hit that drum, it kind of mimics the sound a heartbeat makes.”

Grade 4 students were more than just listeners. They drummed along with Spotted Rock on instruments they made themselves as part of their studies regarding First Nations culture.

“We made the drums because it is the heartbeat of Mother Nature, they (First Nations people) believe,” said Grade 4 student Matthea Suykens. “Playing was very loud but it was kind of easy for me to keep the beat.”

Amrit Parmar had a drum, which was in the pattern of a First Nations medicine wheel. He said the medicine wheel represents all people, as well as the four seasons and nature.

Jimmyjohn said the drum is one aspect of the diverse and long First Nations history.

“The drum is older than time itself,” Jimmyjohn said. “The drum is the voice of the people. It is so sacred it doesn’t speak. It speaks without words. If you notice, a lot of the people out there said they felt that drum. That’s what this is — the drum speaking to you without words.”

He was impressed with the young drummers, and he hopes the students learned the importance of the drum.

“The students did really well,” Jimmyjohn said. “The teachings of the drums, the significance of what it is to the people —that is the point we are trying to get across.”

Fellow Spotted Rock drummer Clifford Jimmyjohn agreed with Travis.

“The one thing I want kids to take away from this experience was, as part of reconciliation, to show that we are also human beings and our culture is part of who we are and what we are,” Clifford said. “I hope they get better understanding from what we did here.

“The kids were saying they felt the power of the drum. This is what the drum brings and what we brought today for the kids to take home with them — the power and the feel of that drum.”

The Westmount School student body was invited to watch the drum circle. During the final song, everyone in the gymnasium was invited to participate in a round dance, which circled clockwise around the drum circle.

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