All-female drumming group inspires confidence and pride amongst Regina students

All-female drumming group inspires confidence and pride amongst Regina students

A group of high school students in Regina is bucking the trend by participating in an all-female Indigenous drum group at Thom Collegiate.  

"We do know that it has happened a long time ago and now we don't see it as much within our region," said Dawne Cassell, the Aboriginal advocate teacher at Thom Collegiate.

Cassell said she knew the group "wasn't of the norm," so she made sure to consult with community elders to find out where the group "fit."

"Our female elder in the school ... said 'it has been done before, and I think that it's really important because it allows these girls to share their voice,' and I thought that was really cool."

The girls meet weekly to sing traditional songs, accompanied by a hand drum — and they're landing performances throughout the city.

'You get to meet all these new people'

"What I like the most about it is that you get to meet all these new people. Some of these girls aren't even in my grade, but you make a bond with them," said tenth grade student Shanikwa Noname.

Noname joined the group earlier this year after moving from Calgary. She said the group has made transitioning to a new school much easier.

"It's made me a lot more confident, and not be alone so much at lunch because now I have something to do."

Noname said she's extremely proud of what she's doing but added that it has been a bit more difficult for some of her family to accept.

"My dad knows I do drum — just like my mom does — and he is proud of me but he doesn't really talk about me about the drum since I'm not a guy, and I respect that," she explained. 

"I go to my kokums [grandmothers] to learn my teachings, instead of asking my dad directly," Noname said. 

Noname stressed that the drum group makes sure to honour those traditional teachings.

"If you're on your time, or your moon, then you shouldn't touch the drum. It's fine if you're near it but you can't touch it."

Noname emphasized the fact that the group is "open to anyone," including "girls who can't touch the drum at all and can't learn how to drum."

"We'll respect what their culture is but they can still come and sing."

'Something positive to look forward to'

Twelveth grade student Brianna LaPlante knows first-hand what Nomane is talking about. LaPlante lends the drum group her voice by singing leads in many of the songs, but chooses to step back when it comes to drumming.

"Traditionally it was the men who drummed and the women who sang backup, so an internal battle that I face is whether or not singing in this group is something that is considered right."

Nevertheless, LaPlante said she feels like she's playing a positive role, adding the group is a safe place focused on "empowerment" of the drummers. 

"Like with the women in the streets and the women who can't necessarily fend for themselves, or struggle with addictions, in this role I can model strength and positivity and try and break that cycle," LaPlante continued. 

The girls are also part of a larger drumming group within the school, joining forces with Thom Collegiate's male drumming group for many of their performances — each student donning a sweatshirt with the words 'in the circle we are all equal,' written across the front.

According to LaPlante, those big performances, while nerve wracking, are always a wonderful experience.

"Everybody joins in and we become a very powerful group."