Cultural centers

Young Inuit drummers foster cultural ties in Labrador West

The Inuit Girls Drumming Group began to carry on the traditional practice of Inuit drumming. Members include, from left, MaKenna Penney, Katie Simmonds, Keanna Reid, Brooklyn Flynn and Sydney Hedderson. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

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

“We started this band about three years ago to bring back the tradition of drumming,” 13-year-old Katie Simmonds said.

“Everyone learned and we hope to teach more people.”

The Inuit Youth Drumming Group was created by the Lab West Indigenous Service Centre. The center organizes a number of activities for young people and adults in order to create links between cultures and strengthen people’s relationship with their own. They provide the drums and the space for the youngsters to practice.

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

“Hopefully we’ll be heading to the Labrador coast soon,” Simmonds said.

She said she and another band member had traveled and played before, in the now defunct town of Henley Harbor on the south coast of Labrador.

“We went out there in a longliner and played our Labrador Treaty drum. And it was great fun.”

The Inuit drumming group holds an outdoor practice, although they mostly practice indoors, as the drums lose their sound after being outside for too long in the winter. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

During the Thursday sessions, the group plays on black drums about 60 centimeters 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 struck with a mallet.

Drummer Brooklyn Flynn said that while performing, the band chooses someone to be the leader who decides what the model will be, and everyone gets a turn to lead. Flynn said she enjoys expressing her culture through drumming and hopes other young Inuit will give her a chance.

“Not many people do drums,” she said. “So let them know you would have a lot of fun and should give it a try.”

The drum is formed from two pieces of wood with a piece of cloth or skin between them, Katie Simmonds said. (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 this will continue in the future and that she has her own plans for this to happen.

“I have a little sister, and I hope I can teach her to drum too.”

Simmonds also hopes to help teach more people in the future and hopes the tradition will continue long into the future.

“I definitely want to teach my kids stuff like drums,” Simmonds said. “If I ever have children.”

The group of young girls play a number of different patterns with their drums. In one pattern, they start in their place, then walk in a circle around each other. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

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