Sacred Aboriginal tradition

Four Directions provides spiritual space for students

Hand drumming is offered every week at the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre.
Hand drumming is offered every week at the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre.
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The Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre offers emotional and cultural support for Indigenous students through hand drumming circles.

Also offering academic tutoring, cultural programming and an Indigenous-oriented library, the centre creates a welcoming environment for all students.

Hand drumming is part of the cultural programming to encourage cultural participation on campus, as well as in the Kingston community.

Music, especially drumming, has always been an important aspect of Canadian Aboriginal culture.

Brought to campus by Four Directions Aboriginal Advisor Vanessa McCourt, hand drumming workshops are led by Aboriginal hand drum expert, Kelly Maracle, every Thursday at the centre.

The purpose of hand drumming is to sing and engage with traditional songs and stories, in order to remind participants to take care of the earth. “The hand drum is significant because it represents the heartbeat of mother Earth,” McCourt said. “So when music is played on the drum, it reminds us of our responsibility to Earth.” Further, hand drumming invites active and spiritual engagement with Indigenous traditions.

“The stories we share around the songs and hearing the drumbeat is very powerful and spiritual,” McCourt said.

The Ojibway-styled drums and songs used during hand drumming circles are typically played and sung in social gatherings.

“We mostly sing Ojibway songs, which are social songs,” McCourt said.

Social songs are traditionally played and sung for any occasion or gathering.

Through the social implications of unity within the songs, hand drumming circles create a sense of community. When they come together as a collective, there’s a community feel, she added.

Hand drumming isn’t only seen as a way to bring students together, but also as a way to allow individual voices to be heard in a positive space.

“We try to create a comfortable safe space so you can try it out without fear of ridicule,” McCourt said.

The centre is widely focused on creating informed mindsets on Queen’s campus about Aboriginal traditions. “Our bigger goal and mandate is to create awareness and appreciation of Indigenous cultures and histories in the Queen’s community,” McCourt said.

In order to create awareness of native practices, Four Directions aims to educate the student population on Indigenous culture to create familiarities between cultures.

“Educating the wider community enables [Indigenous] students to feel safer here,” she said.

Four Directions believes in allowing students to experience Indigenous culture for themselves, in order to truly understand and connect with the culture.

“We welcome people to come in and experience the culture and spirituality to get a better understanding another’s cultural beliefs,” McCourt said.

The centre welcomes students to join the hand-drumming circle every Thursday from 3-4 p.m.

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