How to Make a Native American Pow Wow Drum

by Rebecca Boardman

For the Native American, no matter what tribe, the most sacred thing was Mother Earth. Without the earth as their mother, no tribe would have had food or shelter. Reverence for Mother Earth and for the other spirits and gods was celebrated in gatherings of music and dance we now call pow-wows. During these celebrations, a central beat is kept on large drums, usually manned by eight drummers, who rhythmically keep time by beating together. This drumming represents the heartbeat of the earth herself. This article will give you some tips on how to make a Native American pow wow drum.

How to make a Native American Pow Wow Drum

Obtain your wood. For a pow-wow drum, your wooden base needs to be around twenty inches in diameter. To make your drum as authentic as possible, the wood should be native to the area in which your chosen tribe lived, and harvested in a sustainable way that remains in harmony with the environment.

Heat your wood and bend it. This step takes great skill and a professional should be consulted if you are not proficient in heating and bending wood. You must take great care not to burn or scorch the wood, yet it must be heated enough to bend into a circle. You may use an existing tree to bend it on, or a barrel, or any other circular object that will give you sufficient bend.

Secure your hoop with nails, wooden pegs, and glue. The wood must be secure in its new shape, and allowed to cool and cure. Allow 72 hours before adding anything else to your drum.

Measure, cut, and shape your hide. The hide you choose to cover your drum needs to be of the highest quality and durability. Buffalo hide is the best choice, but it is costly, so measure carefully before cutting! The hide must be rawhide cured.

Stretch your hide across the top and bottom of your drum. Make sure the drum is taut but not so tight it will burst. You can check this as you tighten it by striking the drum to feel the vibration. Secure the hide with the thongs along the edges of the hide, looping them from the top to the bottom and back again, pulling them tight --- like you are sewing. Tie off the loose ends.

Allow your drum to sit for another 72 hours, and then check the tightness of the cover. Sometimes, it will loosen a bit and will need to be re-tightened. You can make any decorations you would like to add at this point.

Tip

  • Always remember that this drum was central to the religion of the Native American, so treat the entire process with the respect it deserves.

Warning

  • Never attempt to heat and bend wood unless you are experienced or have professional help.

Items you will need

  • wood
  • fire
  • hide (buffalo hide preferred)
  • sinew
  • thongs
  • professional help

Photo Credits

  • Courtesy of http://www.swcountry.com/tdpowwow.htm