Great Trading Path Native American Indian art, crafts, beadwork, jewelry, drums, pottery and southeastern Indian history


Native American Rhythms

Thanks to Tachini Pete of for helping us put together this long overdue page. (Pete's shown at left, with his daughter.)

Introduction to Native American Drumming
© 2002 Tachini Pete

Native Americans, people with an ancestral link to the indigenous people of North America are like people on many other continents. There are different customs as related to the drum which vary vastly from region to region and tribe to tribe. The same can be said of the drums. The drum to most natives is central to the community or ceremony. It is considered by many to be the heartbeat of the Earth. They vary from the large community drums to the small hand held drums. In native circles these drums, “pumin” (poo-meen) in Salish, are referred to as hand drums, powwow drums, water drums, peyote drums. In general, all drums are used with some form of beater or drumstick. As well, all drums are used for prayer and spiritual ceremonies or at least have a connection to such.

The hand drums range in size from 6” – 20” in diameter, and they are usually about 2”-4” in depth. These drums have many different uses which very from tribe to tribe. In the powwow scene they are used when singing round dance songs. These have become very popular competitions at many gatherings. They are also used in gambling, in a game called stickgame or handgame. Most non-Indians know these drums as shaman drums because of their use in many different spiritual ceremonies.

The powwow drums are the large drums, sometime referred to as community drums or council drums. These are large drums usually with two heads. The heads can be made of just about any large animal. Often the heads are elk, moose, buffalo, horse, or cow. These drums produce a deep thunderous sound.

Water drums actually contain water. They have a very distinct sound. The movement of the drum and water changes the sound. Peyote drums are small drums used in Peyote ceremonies. These are small single head drums with different shapes. (Photo thanks to

Alaskan Drums: Alaskan natives and northern indigenous people use a large single head drum about 20” – 24” in diameter. These were traditionally made using whale or seal stomach or other innards membrane linings. This is a very delicate procedure and because of this most drums today are made of synthetic fabrics. The songs and uses vary among the many communities and groups of the northern regions of the North America.

The rhythms and songs are so numerous across the continent that it can’t be said there is a common one. Even in powwows there are many different styles, rhythms and songs. Other percussion instruments are rattles, blankets, and wood. Rattles come in many different forms. They can be gourd rattles, rawhide rattles, hoof rattles, wooden rattles, tooth rattles and many more. In some cultures blankets (traditionally buckskin) were used like drums. Stretched by many people and beat with a stick. Wood was used as well in many different ways to create rhythm and song. To a native singer just about anything that makes a beat became a temporary drum atone time or another.


Native American Art and Culture

The Power of Kiowa Song (Peyote songs)

Iroquois Earth Songs
The Six Nations of the Great River (Iroquois) include the Seneca and the Mohawk tribes


Books on Native American music


Wolf's Heart Lodge
Daughters/Sons of the Earth

Drumbeat of the Rainbow fire:
a new rhythmweb article by Michael Drake, author of The Shamanic Drum: A Guide to Sacred Drumming

Talking Drum Publications offers articles, books, tapes, and drum circle workshops on shamanic drumming.

If you know od relevent content sites that should be linked to from this page, please e mail us and let us know.


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