The Heartbeat of Mother Earth - A Native American Legend of the Drum
Throughout history Native Americans have been great storytellers. Theirs is a culture of oral traditions. of stories passed from generation to generation. The telling of stories is alive and well among Native Americans even today. To be considered a teller of stories among Native People is an honor. To keep the stories is a sacred trust as some stories marked special occasions such as the coming of age ceremony or when preparing a young man to seek his vision. Some were told at harvest time or before a hunt. The children are taught bout respect and humor, moral character and courage through the stories of ravens, coyotes, plants, and rocks. There are stories about every element of nature. Native American culture is one of great symbolism and mysticism. There are stories of heroes and spirits, tricksters and the supernatural beings. Some of the stories are true stories, passed down from one generation to another. Others are stories of fiction. Though the lessons are similar, the stories may vary from tribe to tribe.
The Abenaki People and the Legend of the Drum
It is said that when Creator was preparing a place for the Spirits to dwell on Mother Earth, a loud BOOM was heard in the distance. As Creator listened, the sound came ever closer until it was present right in front of Creator. Creator asked – “who are you?” “I am the Spirit of the Drum”, came the reply. Creator asked of the Spirit of the Drum, “What is it you want?” The Spirit of the Drum spoke to Creator, saying “I would like to be a part of this wonderful thing you are creating.”
After a moment of thought, Creator asked , “And what part will you play, Spirit of the Drum?” “I would like to accompany the voices of the People” replied Spirit of the Drum. “When they sing from their hearts, I will sing too, as if I am the heartbeat of Mother Earth. Then all will sing in harmony.”
Creator granted the request of Spirit of the Drum and from that point on, the drum has accompanied the voices of the People.
What the Legend Teaches Us
Among all Native American tribes, the drum represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth and is the center of all the songs. The drum carries the voice of the People to the Eagle who then carries the prayers to the Creator.
At the heart of many Native American stories is the relationship between the human, animal, and spirit worlds. In our human arrogance, we often turn our backs on the more subtle lessons that appear to us in the natural world. For example,
- butterfly shows us that transformation can be beautiful
- porcupine shows us that we can wear our armor as protection but do not always need to use it
- wolf teaches us that we are stronger together than we are alone
- bear teaches us to take time to replenish ourselves
- eagle teaches us to look ahead and to offer up prayers
- coyote reminds us to laugh at ourselves
We do not inhabit Mother Earth alone. We share her with the many species of two and four-leggeds, things that swim, crawl, and fly, and, things of the Spirit that we do not always understand. But if we join our voice in prayer with the heartbeat of Mother Earth, we will find more balance and harmony in all areas of our life. Listen! Do you hear the beat of her heart?
© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.
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About the Abenaki People
The Abenaki are one of five members of the Wabanaki Confederacy, a collective group of small bands of Indians found primarily in the area of New England and Canada. They are subdivided into three groups:
- the Missisquoi (or Mazipskwik)
- the Sokoki (or Sokokis)
- the Cowasuck (Cowass or Coos)
The original language of the Abenaki is classified as an Algonquin language. The word Abenaki means “People of the Dawn Lands” but the Abenaki People call themselves “Real People”. The language of the Abenaki People is an Algonquin. The Abenaki men were hunters and fishermen and the women tended the gardens and harvested fruits and vegetables from the natural resources of the land. They were a charitable People and when the hunt was successful or the harvest abundant, it was shared among all the People.
Today, the Abenaki are not officially recognized by the Federal Government of the United States. Eugenocide decimated the Abenaki People through forced sterilizations and questionable miscarriages at birth. The state of Vermont recognized the Abenaki as a “people” in 2006 but not as a tribe.
© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.