Dr. B Asks, “What are you reading?”

“We read more than just books!”

Article by Dr. Erika Behrisch Elce

When we read in the English, Culture, and Communication department, we read more than books! This week in my ENE110 class, Ojibway-Cree Elder Bernard Nelson and his wife, Tammy, taught us how to read the ceremonial drum in all its rich meaning.

Bernard and Tammy teach that a drum is not just a drum: round like the earth, it points in all directions; when people sit around it and play together, each is matched to everyone else. “The drum itself is a metaphor for common purpose.” Elder Bernard explained, “the drum is a gift, and it gives itself to the drummers; it is the heart of the community.” How exactly does it do this work? “I mean in the sound it makes, like the beating of a heart, as well as in the sense that it brings people together.”

It was delightfully true for our own class: with Bernard’s patient teaching, we all got a chance to sit together at the drum. We worked together to create a single sound, and the drum gave its own song back to us. Mii Gwetch, Bernard and Tammy.