The Heartbeat of a Drum

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Carl Olsen's drums are highly revered by all who understand and admire traditional Indigenous music and storytelling.

"Can you feel the sound this drum makes? Where do you feel it?” asked our good friend Carl, when he presented us with the beautiful drum he had made. The hide, made from elk, was smooth and tight, and the frame had the fragrance of yellow cedar. The drumstick handle was solid maple.

As he beat the drum I could feel the vibration in the area of my heart. “That’s why this is the drum of the heartbeat,” said Carl.  It felt right somehow, connected to the earth, rooted to the ground and yet sending it’s sound out into the ether.

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Dave and I grew up surrounded by four First Nation bands. We went to school with Carl, completely ignorant about the vastly different life Carl and his family lived compared to ours. We were naïve in our youth, not knowing the tragedy of the residential schools, the complete disintegration of First Nation families and the resulting generations of misery.

It amazes me that so many of our First Nation friends, and we’re fortunate to call them friends, have been forgiving and willing to meet for coffee, willing to talk about the past but also about the future. Throughout the many years of persecution they’ve suffered, they have managed to hang on to their culture and their knowledge, and today in this era of climate change and environmental concerns we’re beginning to come full circle in the realization that Indigenous people may have the answers.

We are all connected. That has always been understood by the First Nations. Not simply connected to each other, but also to the animals, plants, marine life, insects, everything that has life.

Our whole world is one eco-system and we can’t disassociate from that fact. The air we breathe here, has been breathed by people around the world, and the waters from the oceans with all their vibrant marine life, blend together.

We share all that is vital to survival.

When Carl asks “Do you feel the beat of the drum”, he’s asking if I feel the life force, the beat of the earth, the energy of the whole universe. That is what Indigenous people all over the world have known for thousands of years.

Till next time.

Look forward to our next ‘walk’ with our Indigenous friends.

Carl Olsen is a Coast Salish artist and respected elder of the Tsartlip, W̱SÁNEĆ First Nation on the southern east coast of Vancouver Island. His drums are made in the traditional way, using yellow cedar and elk hide, and are highly revered by all who understand and admire Indigenous music and storytelling. You can purchase a drum through the GreenAngels Shop–all profit will be used to support Coast Salish initiatives.