From candlelight circles to healing mantras, Native American drumming has a powerful healing power

The joy felt by many Indigenous communities today is a far cry from what extended family members endured during the residential school system. Some aboriginal adults have endured heartbreak and cultural violence; sexual, physical and mental abuse, arson and rape.

As Warren Madaranger discovered when she was child, culture and spirituality are inseparable. Drums, the life cycle, dance, nurturing — all deeply influence a person’s health.

Drums may have belonged to someone or to the community but were usually handed down from one generation to the next.

Drums were used to describe beginnings and endings, waiting periods and intensities of life, though frequently as a general greeting, invocation or prayer.

I grew up with them as a constant companion at night, in the morning and in the evening, depending on where I lived or where my uncle and aunt lived. They played a role in my community.

As children, drums were used to rouse us from sleeping on the ground. I thought it would be so fun to perform to them all year round. I could create drum sounds that would do justice to a community, though never as a professional player.

It was in my eighth grade year that I learned that drumming was a way to heal oneself and the world in which you live.

Drums contain the power to bring healing and deliver strength and hope, through the very rhythm of the dance, food, dance breaks, healing ceremonies, and in gentle singing and chanting.

Singing and chanting have a religious dimension for many indigenous people. They create structures in our lives to aid us, anchor us and open us to potential. Spiritual connection is an important aspect of their practice.

At that point in my life, I began to realize that drums have healing powers. My sister and I became dance leaders, and from the age of 9 we would regularly lead activities with our mothers at home. For long hours, we set up drum kits and started to practice. We’d sit and play our riffs, with directions from our mothers and dad to make them more profound. This work took us a great deal of mental strength, but it was incredible to get to the deep spiritual connection that was so important to me.

Drums are about purpose. Drums are our experiences, our stories, our culture and the things that surround us.

When we play our drums, it’s inspiring to be part of a community, a community that is being challenged.

Singing and chanting are about our health and well-being, learning from elders, cultivating our spiritual connection and spirituality, and understanding my roots and where I come from. This need to connect to a creator who is in my world, our community and our earth, is a huge part of the Spirit Dance. A Spirit Dance is about continuing the growth and development of a person, reconnecting people with their land, learning how to live without the destructive influence of our everyday practices and reconnecting people with their own blood, heart and spirit.

These Spiritual Dance practices can help heal ourselves and help spread wellness throughout our communities.

Drums connect us with ancestral spirits, local spirits and ancestral stories.

We learn about our world, the fact that we are living in a world that is part of the past and part of the present. The trees, the water, the air, the creation stories and ritual practice all have their place in your culture and in your homes.

Spirit Dance is not confined to the Spirit Dance — it’s a circle, throughout your life. The education we receive is part of that circle, too.

Spirit Dance makes us aware of our existence in our environment and how our actions impact it. It’s about feeling our own heartbeat. Spirit Dance makes us aware of everything. Spirit Dance is a time to explore the world around us, making connections with the people we are connected to and with the cosmos

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