Richard Wagamese: Finding way back to Ojibway traditions

"There are three traditional hand drums in our home. Two were gifts and one was made by my wife a handful of summers ago. They hang on our walls as reminders that we're supposed to be prayerful, to be in gratitude and live our lives as though they were a ceremony.

When we center our lives on the traditional teachings within those drums everything is harmony. We use them at gatherings and ceremonies or whenever the feeling of praise and thankfulness hits us. They're good friends and their comforting presence is a blessing. I always feel empowered when I play them, uplifted, made more.

For a long time I had no access to the drums of my people. I was gone for over twenty years, lost in the maze of foster homes and adoption and I was effectively removed from all things Ojibway. But when I found my way back in the late 1970s I found my way back to traditional teachings and the vibrant culture of my people. My life became better, happier, more fulfilled. When I learned to drum and sing with it, I found a measure of redemption I had ached for.

Nowadays, singing with a drum is natural and my wife and I often collaborate and sing and drum together. It's wonderful. There is a resilient strength in drumming that feels right to us. Maybe it's the echo of the eternal heartbeat within it that resonates with us so or maybe it's just the knowledge that we are engaged in something tribal, something real, something ancient and something infinitely healing. Either way we are heartened and happy when we drum."

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Richard Wagamese: The Ojibway djembe (Straight Goods 4/12)

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