Pow-Wow Drum, Social Drum or Big Drum. Our Tradition, our beliefs and our way of life and the way that Indian people do things all started a long time ago when Indian tribes were at odds with each other and fighting all the time. A Spirit visited upon the people and that spirit was called White Buffalo Calf Woman. She came carrying a drum and instructed the men to use it to sing and dance with one another instead of fighting and hurting one another. In presenting it to the men the men were instructed to become the keepers of the drum. The men were told that the women would feed and dress the drum and help keep the songs in order but that they were not to strike the drum. The women were told to sit behind the men to empower the Drum and the men and in that way they would offer them a form of spiritual protection. Later on it was said that if a woman struck the drum she would by that action reclaim it for the women but since the drum was originally given to the men they have become very protective of the drum. Back in the old days the leaders of ceremonial ways were not opposed to women playing or using the hand drum in fact some encouraged it. As time would come to pass with all the changes in the modern world many of the women got into the equal rights thing and eventually they too wanted their own Pow Wow Drum. A few of them tried to do that but found out very quickly that their action would be the cause of Pow Wows shutting down and the women were blackballed by Pow Wow Committees. It was not because they were being bullied it was because of respect for traditions.
At one time those “Big Drums” were here in the North but as time would come to pass the Drums moved South to Kansas. There are still a few places up in the North where the Big Drum Ceremonies are still done. The Elders said that once a Big Drum moves to the South it cannot be brought back or it will lose its power therefore if one wanted it back they would have to take it around the world traveling in a Southern direction until it returns to its place of origin. Some of the old timers have said that it is Ok to move them East and West.
Sweat Lodge- Mdo do gemek. Purification Londge. Our Mother’s womb. Our place of Origin. Years ago before man made all the man made rules when a person wanted to sweat they went to those who did those things and offered them tobacco and asked to be put in a sweat. The facilitator would ask the person why they wanted to be in there and they would go from there. They had to have a reason to want to go in there. Also way back then the facilitator built the lodge just big enough for the person asking for the sweat and that person was the only one that went in there. The facilitator stood outside the door and brought in the rocks and medicine/ cedar tea. As time would come to pass the facilitator also went in with the person and when that happened they needed help from someone else and the so called door keeper and helper started. Cedar was always placed on the earth with the medicine side facing up as a source of spiritual strength. The side that faced the earth while it was on the tree was the medicine side. Cedar is both a healing medicine and purifier. When it is real hot from the steam one can breathe through it to help one have a little bit of an easier time to breathe. Water/medicine is poured and makes the same sounds that we heard when we were in our mother’s womb along with the drum for the heartbeat and the songs represent our mother singing to us. Notice the four rings on the lodge that represents the four levels of spirituality. Four times the door is opened and each time new and hot rocks/grandfathers are brought in. A round or door for each of the four cardinal directions with teachings for each specific direction are done. Today in the modern world there are co-ed lodges with both male and females sweating together. Some old school people still prefer to sweat only with alike gender in other words males will only sweat with males and likewise female with female. Women are asked to wear dark colored t-shirt and shorts/skirt/sweatpants and quite typically men are asked to wear shorts. Only canvas is used as outside covering for lodge because it too has to breathe, absolutely no plastic or rubberized tarps because they cannot breathe. Some people will pass strawberries at the end of a lodge and do the pipe ceremony to close the circle at the end of the lodge.
Sharing round in sweat lodge, Talking Circle sometimes called Circle Talk. Years ago the Spiritual people who conducted ceremonies said that this was America’s oldest form of group therapy but they never referred to it as therapy. They said that if they would have called it therapy Indian people would refuse to go it. When this was done in the old day’s people gave it the respect that is was meant to have and everything worked the way it was supposed to. In today’s world they refer to things said or shared as confidential because that what makes it work so beautiful. That so called general rule was the key for making talking circles work the way they are supposed to work. No one was supposed to mention a person’s name or repeat the words that they heard in those places. When a person shared an experience about life that was good or bad one was supposed to learn from another’s experience and not talk about it or repeat it. We are there to learn from it. Again no names mentioned about who was there or who said what.
When you go there be prepared to be offered a smudge by someone in the group usually a helper or facilitator. Sage is burned in a shell and that shell is placed in front of you most of the time and when it is simply use your hands to move the smoke over your face or head. This is done to do a simple cleansing of any and all negativity, cleaning or clearing the air as one would say. One should keep in mind that once the sage bowl/shell is lit the ceremony is actually started and one should refrain from talking out of turn at that time. Also one other thing that is important is that even before that happens when you first go into a room or circle always go left to right so you go clockwise in a circle to your seat or chair. Once you are smudged as well as the rest of the people the facilitator will usually talk first and he or she will then pass the feather known as a Grandfather/Grandmother to his or left and the talking circle begins. The only one that is supposed to be talking is the person with the feather in their hand. If you do not have the feather in your hand do not interfere and do not talk while another person has it and is sharing. Wait until it is your turn. Waiting for your turn will teach you to have patience. If you are in a lodge and if there is a Fire burning you can offer tobacco when you first come into the lodge and when the feather is passed to you, you can offer tobacco to the fire again before you start talking but do not offer tobacco while someone else is talking. An exception to the rule is if you have to leave the circle for a little bit go to the Fire offer your tobacco and exit the lodge without talking or saying anything to anyone. Re-entering the circle do the same thing. Years ago the old ones said when you go there and you hear something that is good take it with you and if you hear something that is not so good and it does not feel good leave it there. Never tell anyone who said what and never tell anyone who was in the circle. We have a word and that word is Mingaswenen and it means sharing. That is what we do to help others. The other word that we use is Kobthegewen and that means close the circle and we say that when we are done.