Mawkina’masultinej: Pepkwejete’maqn (Drum)

Inquiring Into The Drum

On this page you will find resources and curriculum connections to help you lead students through an inquiry unit on the drum and it’s role within the Mi’kmaq culture. The drum is sacred and respected among many Indigenous communities, including the Mi’kmaq.

What is Inquiry?

Inquiry is the result of human beings’ wonderings and curiosities about the natural or constructed world (Barell, 2008; Krauss, 2013). Our natural inquisitiveness is the driving force to ask questions and formulate means of authentic learning, and it is this inquisitiveness and passion that moves us forward (Krauss, 2013; The National Science Foundation, ND; Pahomov, 2014) and pushes our ability to think in critical, creative and divergent ways (Bateman, 1990; Krauss, 2013). IBL is a student-centred learning process that emphasizes the importance of motivating students to engage in and learn through the process of purposeful experiential investigations and research in order to better understand the world (Abuhimed, Beheshti, Cole, AlGhamdi & Lamoureux, 2013; Galileo Educational Network, 1999-2014; Kanter & Konstantopoulos, 2010; Prince, 2004; Rusche & Jason, 2011). Inquiry invites children to explore questions of interest to them related to a given topic. Through inquiry, students can cover a large number of curriculum outcomes through authentically exploring a topic of relevance to them.

Why Inquire into The Drum? 

“A drum is more than just a musical instrument; it has a life and a spirit. The beat of the drum is like a heartbeat, starting slowly and then beating more quickly as the song progresses. The drumsticks connect the spirit of the drum with the spirit of the singers.”  (P. 7, Powwow 101: University of Saskatchewan Powwow Protocol)

In September of 2017 all Nova Scotia Music Teachers were presented with a Mi’kmaq drum constructed in one of three places in Nova Scotia – Millbrook, Indian Brook or Eskasoni.  In the Halifax Region all music teachers were required to attend and participate in the birthing ceremony of the drums to later be used in their classrooms.   The drums were blessed, the Mi’kmaq Honour Song sung, Elders delivered messages of hope and reconciliation, and teachers returned to their rooms with their new drums in hand to begin the teaching and learning.

Although the drums have been appreciated, and used according to the understanding of the keeper, many drums remain un-played beyond October (Mi’kmaq Heritage Month) simply because each school has only one.  They remain in cupboards within music rooms, and treated as sacred treasures.  Many Indigenous teachings of the drum tell us that drums are to be played, shared, and used to bring people together.  As the gifting of the drums was an effort at meeting the outcomes listed in the Treaty Education Framework, and a visible, concrete step in moving toward reconciliation via The Calls To Action, this group feels that more can be done with these beautiful gifts by moving the intent from the music room into the classroom.  All schools in Nova Scotia have genuine handcrafted exemplars from which to begin a project of inquiry.

Connections between Indigenous hand drums/drumming and mathematics/science abound (as do connections to all the subjects colonized institutions insist upon delineating).  Drum construction provides access points to the curriculum via the materials required and the geometry and counting inherent in the design.  The playing of the drum lends itself easily to pattern identification, replication and creation in a way that builds community.  Many students have prior knowledge of drums and drumming along with cultural connections and their lived experiences.  The drum can readily create new understandings and lived experiences.   

We further chose the drum because despite its complexity and significance, it is fun and available to students as young as 5 years old. If decolonizing, and teaching in a holistic manner is to be a reality, we contend it begins on DAY 1 of Public School.  This is our effort in realizing that goal.

How do I Connect this to Curriculum? 

Teachers are encouraged to use the Inquiry Project Details below for the appropriate grade. These projects include links to provincial Mathematics (WNCP), Science, Social, English Language Arts, Mi’kmaq Language, and other content area outcomes. These guides also contain examples of essential questions that can be used to start an inquiry project on bead work. There are also suggestions about how the bead work inquiry fits within various units within the curriculum.

  • Grades Primary/One

Links to Drum Work Information