Al Carter sits at a table at the ‘Experience Native Culture and Traditions’ event at Victoria Park in Halifax on Tuesday, July 10, surrounded by traditional drums. Some of them are older, a few were just made, others still soaking in water.
Carter describes how the drums are made.
“The first step is to find a way to make a circle in wood, whether you use plywood or an old stick,” Carter said. “Then pick a hide, pretty much any animal, buffalo, deer is very popular in Nova Scotia, you soak the raw hide, cut it to the shape you want, punch holes around the perimeter of it, and then you do the hard part. You take what’s left of your hide and cut it into strips about a quarter-inch wide. About 30 feet of it. Lace it through the holes over your ring and pull it tight. Once you’re finished tying it off and it dries, it becomes quite hard, almost like wood.
“When you’re done, and you’ve don’t it correctly, you end up, with this,” Carter holds up one of his completed drums and plays a beat.
Carter has been making the drums for about six years and he was a woodworker before that. He said a friend of his, who had cancer at the time, asked him to make a drum for her (because of his woodworking skill) and after she played it for a while her cancer was gone. He’s been making them ever since.
“There’s a great deal of healing and spiritual power in the drum,” Carter said.
The Mawiomi powwow, which highlighted native culture on the Halifax Common last year, will not happen this year primarily due to funding issues, but Carter said he’s glad the Mi’kmaq people still have an outlet to teach people about their culture.
“Like any culture, it only survives by using it,” Carter said. “Native language only survives by using it, and we’re here to practice it. This is good for the general public to know who the Mi’kmaq are and what they’re about, but it’s just as important to the Mi’kmaq people.”
This event, featuring dancing, basket weaving demonstrations, singing and more was put together as an outlet for Mi’kmaq people to teach others about their culture and also to highlight the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre on Gottigen Street.
Pamela Glode-Desrochers, executive director of the Friendship Centre, said she hopes this event will leave people with a better understanding of Mi’kmaq life.
“It came about because we knew that the powwow (Mawiomi) wasn’t happening this year,” Glode-Desrochers said. “It was just a way to for us to let the public know about the friendship centre and what we’re doing,”
The friendship centre has been operating for 39 years and has a variety of programs for native people in HRM including employment training. However, the youth program’s funding was recently frozen by the federal government, something Glode-Desrochers is hoping can be reversed.
Glode-Desrochers said they are already planning next years event with more performances, demonstrations and vendors.
Activities at Experience Native Culture and Traditions
Demonstartions of Powwow dance styles
Native drum making demonstration
Quill work demonstration
Dream catcher making
Air brush tattoos (with Native theme)