Youth Inuit drummers foster cultural connections in Labrador West

·2 min read
The Inuit girls drumming group started to continue the traditional Inuit drumming practice. Members include, from left, MaKenna Penney, Katie Simmonds, Keanna Reid, Brooklyn Flynn, and Sydney Hedderson.  (Heidi Atter/CBC - image credit)
The Inuit girls drumming group started to continue the traditional Inuit drumming practice. Members include, from left, MaKenna Penney, Katie Simmonds, Keanna Reid, Brooklyn Flynn, and Sydney Hedderson. (Heidi Atter/CBC - image credit)
Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

Every Thursday in Labrador West, a group of girls gather together to drum and forge a connection to their Inuit culture that they hope to share with others in the future.

"We started this group about three years ago to bring back the tradition of drumming," Katie Simmonds, 13, said.

"Everyone has been learning and we're hoping to teach more people."

The Inuit youth drumming group was started by the Lab West Indigenous Service Centre. The centre holds a number of activities for youth and adults to build connections between cultures and to strengthen people's relationships with their own. They provide the drums and space for the youth to practice.

Simmonds said she enjoys learning about her Inuit culture and it's fun to come and hang out with the group. She hopes they're able to travel soon and perform for others, an idea that has been hampered by the pandemic.

"Hopefully we'll be heading to the coast of Labrador sometime soon," Simmonds said.

She said she and another group member had travelled and performed before, in the now-defunct town of Henley Harbour on Labrador's south coast.

"We went out there in a longliner and we performed our drumming for the Treaty of Labrador. And that was a lot of fun."

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

At the Thursday sessions, the group play on black drums that are about 60 centimetres in diameter. The drums have two pieces of wood that make up the frame and a piece of fabric or hide in between, Simmonds said.

The fabric is tightened to produce a specific sound when hit with a mallet.

Drummer Brooklyn Flynn said while playing, the group picks someone to be the leader who decides what the pattern will be, and everyone has a turn to lead. Flynn said she enjoys expressing her culture through drumming and hopes other Inuit youth give it a chance.

"Not very many people do drumming," she said. "So just letting them know that you would have lots of fun and you should try it."

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

Young drummers

At 10 years old, MaKenna Penney is the youngest of the group is MaKenna Penney.

She started after hearing people in her family drum and wanted to celebrate her culture. Penney said she hopes it continues into the future and has her own plans to make that happen.

"I have a little sister, and I'm hoping I could teach her how to drum too."

Simmonds hopes to help teach more people in the future as well and hopes the tradition continues long into the future.

"Definitely want to teach my kids about stuff like drumming," Simmonds said. "If I ever do have kids."

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

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