The music of the First Nations is not a single entity, but a vast and shifting landscape of sound that varies from Nation to Nation, from region to region across Canada. Yet all these different musical traditions circle around certain core beliefs, around valuable morals and lessons for the life of both the individual and the community. Search through our topics below to discover the many meanings of the drum in Aboriginal culture .
Reading the Terrain
The music of the First Nations comes not just from the culture, but from geography and the features of the landscape. Maps and pictures highlight the major tribal groupings and ecozones across Canada.
“Bells and Whistles”
The hide of the drumskin is not the drum’s only music-maker. See how the Aboriginal peoples added to the sound of the drum in novel and inventive ways.
Structuring for Sound
Different tribes build their drums in different ways depending on their traditions, their materials and their climate. Learn how different cultures manipulate wood, fire and water in their own special ways to obtain the perfect tone for their drums.
Finding Your Voice
Singing is a powerful and exhilarating means of expression in the First Nations. Hear one singer’s description of what the music of the voice means to her and her people.
Seasons of the Drum
Drums have many and varied functions in the life of the Aboriginal community, and not all kinds of drumming are appropriate for all occasions. Learn about the four major times of the drum and their distinctive meanings.
An Inuit Drum Dance
Read a history and description of this ancient drum ritual.
An Iroquois Social Dance
Read about these famous “longhouse” events which brought together the many tribes of this vast and diverse culture..
The powwow is one of the best-known Aboriginal traditions. Learn its history and see how it grew and evolved to embrace both natives and non-natives in its festivities.
A short list of important terms and definitions for Aboriginal instruments, ceremonies, and dress.
References & Citations.
Links to informative websites and other materials related to this chapter.