Drumline: Sitka Style

It’s been said that a group of indigenous peoples, on the Pacific Northwest Coast, in North America, have lived continuously, in Sitka, Alaska, since the end of the last Ice Age.

Female Drumming Group

Their language is Tlingit. It means “People of the Tides”.

A few weeks ago, I was invited, by an Americorps friend, to watch a group of Tlingit women drummers practice, in Totem Park.

Totem Park

Totem Park is a federally designated cultural and historic park. It dates back to June 21, 1890, when President Harrison set aside Shis’kí Noow (“Sapling Fort”) for public use.

Into the Woods

The setting couldn’t have been more perfect, for an introduction into Native women’s drumming. In high school, I signed up for the drums. Then, when a girl trying to grasp chimes couldn’t “quite” keep up, we were switched. It was my own fault, really. I picked up her chimes and immediately played, (what the teacher had been trying to teach her), from memory.

Drum Line

The drumming group meets twice a week. I was invited to come back and join them. I’m undecided. Don’t get me wrong. It was an amazing honor to play with the group. I just feel there needs to be a real commitment to learn. For now, I’m still learning about living, day-to-day, in Alaska.

Salmon run

Recently, I learned about the salmon run. The Totem Park is currently my short cut to the Post Office. These days, the smell of dead salmon, from the lake, is strong. The sound being made by all the birds, feasting on the dead fish, is unreal. I’m considering walking the long way around to get my mail. The park now closes at 6:00 pm, because the bears have also joined in the dead fish buffet.

For now, I’ll risk it. A friend, from back East, mailed me some winter yarn. I would totally fight a bear (or at least run real fast) for yarn. Plus, the blessing now surrounding me, after drumming with those amazing Tlingit women, should provide the needed protection, at least through the fall. —GGT

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