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Algonquin College students build tradition with new Indigenous drum

March 21, 2018
Devyn Barrie, Ottawa Citizen

With few Indigenous traditions at Algonquin College, students created their own this week by constructing a large traditional drum to use in ceremonies and gatherings.

The drum was made as part of a college project that saw one crafted at each of its three campuses, as a way to instil Indigenous traditions into the college’s culture and reinforce its commitment to truth and reconciliation. The college’s satellite campus in Perth has already made its drum and the Pembroke campus is set to build its own on Thursday.

André O’Bonsawin, manager of Indigenous initiatives at the college, said traditions are lacking in the school community and the drums are meant to bridge different cultures and the three campuses together.

Dave Hookimaw, 51, would know. A Cree drumkeeper, he’s made more than 100 drums and was on hand to open the construction event on Monday. He said the near-universality of drums in music of almost all types, Indigenous or not, make them ideal for bringing people together. The beating of a drum is akin to the beating of a human heart, Hookimaw said.

“We hear that in our mother’s wombs: boom, boom, boom, boom,” he said. “(The drum) touches so many people, it doesn’t matter what race you are.”

Around a dozen students gathered around a table in the college’s Mamidosewin Centre to assemble the drum under the guidance of Pinock, an Algonquin artist from Maniwaki, Que. who specializes in these types of projects. They began by cutting two circles out of buffalo hide to serve as drum tops, as well as a long string to tie them together.

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