Langford students explore Indigenous culture by making Coast Salish drums

A drum made by a student during the Legacy Drum Project at Belmont Secondary School is shown: (Belmont Secondary School)

A long-awaited drum-making project at a Vancouver Island secondary school is teaching students about various aspects of Coast Salish culture through music and art.

Over the course of a few weeks throughout February and March, students at Belmont Secondary School in Langford, B.C., worked with Elders and role models in the Sooke School District to create handmade drums.

The Legacy Drum Project has been a vision for the school for the past four years and was finally able to come to fruition this year, says Indigenous literacy teacher Natasha Parrish.

“This has been a really incredible learning opportunity to share cultures and learn from each other,” she says. “In fact, many school districts now have classroom sets of hand drums that students sing and drum with.”

The 30 finished drums will be displayed around the school and in classrooms for everyone to admire. They will also be utilized in music classes in years to come, according to school officials.

Elder Henry Chipps from Beecher Bay First Nation guided the students along as they crafted and painted the drums.

“They have done an amazing job. It shows a lot of respect,” he says.

“I was glad to participate in most steps of the process.”

Parrish explains that the Belmont Secondary drum-making project encompasses both First Peoples' principles of learning and the new B.C. curriculum outcomes for art and music.

Since the project began, four Indigenous songs have been gifted to the school district by Scia'new First Nation, says Parrish.

Tessa Logan, a Metis Grade 12 student who created a drum for the project, says the project felt like a step in the right direction to see local Indigenous culture reflected more prominently at the school.

“It made me wish I ventured out more in art class over the years to try my hand at Indigenous art,” Logan says. “I'm glad I got the opportunity to learn from knowledge-holders because I didn't want to paint or represent something in the wrong way.”

Annilee Guy is a school art teacher who was also involved in the project.

“The most gratifying part of the project was my student's willingness to want to pass along their art for other students to enjoy,” Guy says. “I am so proud of each of them, for their creativity, effort, and generosity.”

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