Harold takes great care when making drums. He says,"I had to learn the hard way and fast, because people had a lot of questions about drums that needed answers." Here is his story:
In 1994 there was a Pow Wow in Mission, in the southern part of British Columbia. I went there because I heard a lot of people say good things about it. I heard that it was the second biggest Pow Wow in British Columbia at that time.
It was a nice Pow Wow, lots of dancers, drummers and spectators. There were numerous arts and crafts booths surrounding the dance arbour. I walked from booth to boot looking at all the beautiful work of the artisands: beadwork, jewelry, carvings, artwork and more. Creativity shone from the talent of the artists and craft people who were there.
I came upon this one booth where there was a man selling drums. In the booth were drums of all shapes and sizes, painted and unpainted drums, hand and floor drums. Drums were on the table and hanging on the wall of the booth.
What attracted me were the painted drums, beautiful in their own style. A few of the drums were fancied with feathers, beadwork and ribbons. The man who made these drums is a very talented person. At the time I had no knowledge of the time and effort that went into the making of these drums.
While I was there I picked up one drum. I looked at it, truning over and over. I looked at the was the frames were made, the hide which was stretched over the frame, and the way it was tied in the back. Though I had seen a couple of drums being made before this, I was fascinated by the craftsmanship of the drums.
Also, I was amazed at how fast this man was selling the drums. I thought the price was very reasonable, too. At that Pow Wow, with all those booths, that man was the only one selling drums.
"I can do that too!" "I can make lots of drums and make lots of money too." I left the Pow Wow with that thought in mind. I had no concept of the philosophy that went into drum making.
When I got home I put together a few eight sided drum frames, found some hide and stretched it onto the frames. I had a good idea of how to make a drum as I had seen them made before and studied the way the man at the Pow Wow made them. My first drums turned out good and I had no trouble selling them. That's how I got started drum making.
Soon after that I went to a Pow Wow, rented a booth, and laid out all the drums I had made. I hung the ones I thought were the nicest. I was there to sell many drums and make lots of money.
A drum was a drum to me. I did not understand why people coming to my booth were asking me questions. They asked questions about the drums I could not answer., the only thing I knew at that time was, "it is the heart beat of Mother Earth." Other people, Elders in particular started talking to me and giving me some insight on drums and drum making.
This is when I realized that there was more to drums than just putting it together and trying to make money from it. I soon went to the Elders and to other Drum Makers, asking a lot of questions about drums and drum making. One Elder told me, "It is a gift and an honour to make drums, and to carry one, you will learn a lot by it."
Over the past years I have learned a lot. What stands out in my heart is what an honour it is to make and carry these drums. I also carry a song to go with my drum. The drum is part of me and I am part of the drum.
Since 1994 I have made drums and I carry a lot of knowledge about drum making, but I will not say I know everything there is to know. I still have a lot to learn about making drums. All I can say is that, hopefully, I can share this knowledge with you and one day you too can become a Drum Maker.
Thank You, Harold Isaac