What if…..our ancestors, the first inhabitants of this land we call America, could see the future? Who saw the tall ships and sails coming toward them, and somehow knew inside, that they needed to plan. To store away, within their very own DNA, the will to survive? The survival of a people, a race, a way of life. That when they prayed, danced, and sang, they were planting the seeds of survival within us.When the time was right, those inextricably, wonderfully woven strands of DNA would be expressed through their offspring…when the time was right.This is the story I like to believe is true.That my ancestors, in their perfect wisdom, somehow understood the fate and struggles ahead. They sent up prayers knowing that one day, that these time capsules would be opened to give rebirth to their ways, to the survival of a people. This is the story I like to believe is true.
I was not born into a clan. I did not grow up on the reservation. My skin isn’t even tan. I am Tsalagi…Ani Yunwiya if you will. I am descendant of both Ross and Sixkiller families. My great great great grandfather Redbird Sixkiller was removed in the Trail of Tears from Lookout Mountain, Georgia and settled in Locust Grove, Indian Territory present day Oklahoma. My Ross ancestors were descendants of Chief Oconostota. These are the strands of gold within my DNA. They speak to me, guide me and teach me what I am to know and how I am to act.
Everything that I have learned up to now about what it means to be Native American was not something that I grew up around. It has only come from my active pursuit, urged on by something inside of me telling me to keep going.
This is my story of how I came to the drum and why I sit at a drum.
Near the end of my nursing school education, Creator sent me a thought. He wanted me to work on the reservation as a Public Health Nurse. So began my learning. With an open heart and a true willingness to help, my eyes were opened. My heart grew. While working with struggling young mothers, Creator again called me to something with which I was totally unfamiliar. The drum. I understood why, but didn’t know how to get there. It has taken time. Still the journey is not yet complete.
Wisdom and teachings from respected elders have come to me, confirming my calling. I sit at a drum for healing and strength. For a collective belief in the promise of a better tomorrow for our Native families. With humility in our hearts and a strength in the circle that forms around our drum, we can restore confidence, and dignity in the roles we have been given. Each knowing our place. It starts with me.
Some have questioned what I am doing, telling me that this is not traditional and that women do not sit at the drum. For those who have taken the time to hear my story, and see my heart, they now see in a new way.
I ask you..how could women have never sat a drum? We are all drawn to the drum because of its heartbeat. It reminds us of the very first sound we heard while in our mothers’ womb. As women we are the life givers. We are as sacred as the Earth. Like a fetus in our mothers’ womb, we live on this planet Earth and feel her heartbeat through the drum. As we sing our songs, our prayers are carried, and the energy with which we drum and sing is returned to us and restores us.These are the seeds my ancestors planted for me, my family, and my community. This is how they lived.
The Creator again spoke to me and led me to Keith and Cheryl who have crafted the newest member of our family, our drum. But after all, what I really believe is that they have returned to me a family member with whom I had been separated from for a very long time. This drum has much to teach and give, and in return I honor that by keeping her in a good way. I’ve known this drum my whole life, and it knows me.
This is not the end of my story…….but this is what I believe to be true.
What I have learned so far, as a woman, on this journey to and with the drum ...that women all over the world are coming to the drum. Most are called to the drum through their dreams. I am saying thousands and thousands of women. This is a worldwide phenomenon. Women from all cultures and races. It has nothing to do with feminism, but everything to do with strength and healing through restoration of the spirit. First Nations women are coming to the drum as well. We do not drum to compete. Our songs are not performances, they are prayers. With fierce determination of spirit we are drumming and singing.What I am saying to you is that if you have been spoken to or guided to drum then honor it.Seek out other women who drum. I was led to a group of Native women drummers who have taken us in and have mentored us in the strictest of protocols. We are singular in our purpose.