Indigenous drumming has healing powers

Indigenous drumming is a healing practice for students on campus

Image by: Herbert Wang
Four Directions hosts a drumming circle every Tuesday.

For Indigenous students, community can be found in the round room at the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre (4D) on Tuesdays during Lisa Doxtator’s drumming circle.

4D offers a drumming circle exclusively for Indigenous students every Tuesday from 1 to 2 p.m. at the 4D round room. Lisa Doxtator, cultural counsellor at 4D, established and curated the program for students to engage with traditional teachings and knowledge. Doxtator spoke about the importance of identity and belonging for Indigenous students.

Alongside her role at 4D, Doxtator is an embedded counsellor working with Student Wellness Services to provide individual and group therapy to Indigenous students.

“Identities become a really huge issue for Indigenous students that [are] not feeling Indigenous enough—not looking Indigenous enough or not knowing enough about the culture, and feeling really disconnected,” Doxtator said.

The foundation of her knowledge derives from the medicine wheel. According to Doxtator, the medicine wheel is divided into four parts to represent four aspects of the self. It teaches one the emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical composition of their present self to find balance in life.

If one part of the wheel is more pronounced than the other, her job as a counsellor is to help students find ways to balance their four selves.

“In order to have balance in our life, we need to have balance in all four of those aspects. If we’re getting more exercise and not doing enough in our emotional, then the physical realm becomes really big and everything else becomes really small. We work those [imbalances] out,” Doxtator said in an interview with The Journal.

Doxtator said the drum is medicine for Indigenous people, and connects them to the present moment,healing at the cellular level.

“The drum represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth, and the drum connects us to our spirit,” Doxtator said.

“Because the drum represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth, it calls out to our spirit and calls us back into our physical body so we can be here now. If you’re always in the past, you’re not in the present.”

Though Doxtator said students are hesitant when they first come to the drumming circle, students gain confidence in their abilities and find their voice.

“It’s important for our Indigenous students to feel safe and acknowledge the validity of our own medicines so they feel less shame about who they are.”

Doxtator denotes drumming as knowledge kept in her knowledge bundle to pass on to others. She learned to drum in her Master of Social Work program at Wilfred Laurier University while taking an Indigenous lens on her thesis.

She believes the biggest problem for Indigenous students on campus is their fear of reaching out to 4D for guidance and help.

“What I want them to know is that they don’t have to know anything about their ancestry. They don’t have to know about drumming, about their genes, or about the medicines. That’s what we’re here for—it’s to teach them those things,” she said.

She said 4D has cultural resources, such as drums, shakers, tobacco, and sweet grass, to let students experience their culture.

It’s difficult for non-Indigenous Queen’s students to relate to Indigenous traumas, and there’s silence when Indigenous students attempt to speak. Doxtator said it’s unfortunate students might not feel accepted or feel they can’t be their true selves around their peers on campus.

Doxtator encourages Indigenous students to come to the drumming circle and experience it for themselves.

“We’re experiential learners, not book learners. I remember always asking ‘what’s the sweat lodge about? What’s the Sundance about?’ The only answers I ever got was, ‘you need to go.’ And that would frustrate me. Why can’t I just read about it? But now I really get why. Because you get so much more out of it than sitting and reading a book.”


Culture, Four Directions, Healing, Indigenous, Truth and Reconciliation Day

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