Historically, drumming has long been an important part of Native American culture. In many tribes, drums were even considered sacred and embodied a life force of their own. Frame drums, it was thought by some, maintained the life of the materials of their creation including the plant that went into the making of the frame and the animal who gave its life for the skin of the drum. Because of these beliefs, frame drums are still treated with respect and reverence for the lives that went into their creation.
While in our lives, many view drumming as a hobby or means of entertainment, for many Native American tribes drumming was a way to connect with spiritual beliefs and entities. These tribes have magnificent stories behind their drumming traditions that include creation stories and sacred connections through the drums and rhythms. However, most tribes use them in spiritual ceremonies and agree that frame drums are highly communicative. Frame drums are often used to communicate within the tribe or mark certain important events, such as a weddings, births and deaths. Frame drums have also been used by many tribes to communicate with the Great Spirit. Because of this importance, a lot of care and consideration goes into their making.
The decoration of these drums can vary from tribe to tribe. For many, it is traditional to decorate the drums with depictions of animals or scenes from the natural world. For other tribes, it is more common to see geometric patterns on the drums. These drums are still painted with natural pigments in Native American tribes, due to their sacred nature. These pigments may come from plants, rocks, insects, or other natural methods.
Most frame drums can be played with the hand, but, they are meant to be played with a beater. This beater is typically made of wood and is generally covered in leather or fur. These natural objects also donated their own life forces in the creation of the drum, adding to the sanctity of Native American drumming.
When looking into the history of Native American drumming, it is impossible not to be struck by the beauty of these drums and everything that goes into them. Drums have long been used for communication and expression, so it is no wonder many Native American tribes utilized this in their own societies. It’s not hard to imagine that you are part of this drumming society communicating with the great spirits of the world when you are drumming.