In countless cultures around the world, the beating of a drum creates a powerful statement. In First Nations cultures, the drum is a vital member of the community and can be heard across vast expanses of land and water. The regular pulse of a drum brings people together, if only for a moment, into a common, focused rhythm.
For First Nations people, drums bring a sense of joy and exuberance to ceremonial potlatch celebrations, which pay tribute to the rich traditions of the people. “The sound of the drum, the heartbeat of our people,” Susan Point explains, “brings meaning and life to our gatherings.” In many ways, drums become characters as stories are passed from one generation to the next. Point has given these three drums individual names—Red Snapper, Encounter and Sister Wolf. Drums are always different, and the rawhide stretched over the wooden frame can vary, even slightly, in thickness or strength, giving each drum a distinct sound or voice. Unlike many of Susan Point’s other pieces, the design of the drum doesn’t tell a story. Instead, it creates a character. It is the function of the drum, when used in a ceremony, to contribute to the oral history passed down to the children.
—Susan Point as told to Vesta Giles