The Drums of War

Pow Wow season is quickly approaching and everywhere you look across Indian Country, moms and aunties are pulling out the big guns to get everyone’s regalia ready. It is the apex of the off-season.

In my own life this means getting down with the sewing machine, and up on the treadmill. Right now even the sight of the word ‘treadmill’ is bringing my spirit dread. It’s been two full years since my cancer diagnosis; two years since I’ve been able to dance fully. Getting back on the treadmill now seems like climbing a mountain. I’m already tired, my muscles are weak and waned and I’m starting to feel old.

Despite my apprehension, I put on my yoga pants and headed to the gym. As soon as I popped on my headphones and cranked up Bear Creek, my fears began to fade. It was that drum. It doesn’t matter what kind of songs. It could be the big drum of the prairie nations, it could be the water drum of my Haudenosaunee people, it could even be the drums of South America with the soft rattles in the background. Whichever the drum that roars, something deep inside of me rises: something instinctive, something aggressive, something real. Suddenly despite my weakness, I find the strength to fight my way through another battle on the treadmill.

I need the drum today. Everything and anything that could bother me is manifesting at once. I’m irritated with a friend, can’t stand the government, I’m sick and tired of feeling sick and tired and I just spent my last forty bucks. Something’s gotta give! Unfortunately in times like this for many of us it’s our sanity. We start fighting amongst each other, blaming one another for the hard times. “If only you did something different, nothing bad would be happening to me!” Sound familiar?

But I have learned that in times when your spirit is under attack, you have to sound the drums of war. And not a literal war against flesh and blood, no. This is a war against those things in the spiritual realm that are seeking to destroy Ganigohiyo inside each one of us. There is a strong spirit of survivor that rises each time the bass of the big drum sounds, or when you hear a turtle rattle or a water drum. We are all survivors, we have all endured. The evil mind hates the survivor and there is a spirit in the world that seeks to keep us bound and destroyed. This is the enemy.

The drum reminds us of our beginnings. They say it is the heartbeat of Mother Earth. It is the first sound we hear when we are in the womb…the heartbeat of our own mother. It is an innate and intimate sound that brings us back to our origins, when we were pure of thought and experience. The drum does not magically cast away darkness, but the drum lifts me up from the pit so I can connect with the Creator and all of Creation, and together we cast it away. This is where we can rise and find victory.

I can’t help but see something bigger here. It is rising in my spirit and I see it in the faces of my Ongwehowe brothers and sisters. Those of us living geographically within the borders of Canada and the United States know we are surrounded by nations that have continually broken covenant with us. We have been fighting for years, collectively we are battle weary, yet when I look into the future I can see that Ongwehowe people as a nation might be about to face the biggest after school battle of our lives. It feels like we are getting ready for the battle royale, like you know the bell is going to ring and the school bully is going to be outside waiting for you. You know you’re going to have to fight, and you dread every minute that ticks by. Just like I dreaded the treadmill.

When I was down, it was the drum that called me to rise. Once I was inspired, I rose. I was victorious over that battle within that said I didn’t have the power to endure another fight. I wonder: is it time to collectively start the drums and call the spirit within each person to rise together? Who will sound the drums of war? And who will answer the call to rise?

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