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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 18, 2002 - Issue 61


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Students Learn Art of Drum Making

by Helen Bennett Harvey, Milford Bureau Chief

MILFORD, CT - Ryan Green rapped out a tune on a rawhide-covered drum Friday morning, and quietly mused about what life was like in centuries when such instruments played a significant role in culture and entertainment.

"We listen to CDs and go to the movies, and everything is machine-made. They made drums and played them," Green said. "People are still interested in their culture."

The civilization Green was speaking of is that of Native Americans, specifically that of the Tewa tribe of the southwestern U.S. With the help of Bea Duran, of the Tewa tribe, Green and other students from the city's Alternative Education School on Friday got a hands-on lesson in drum-making.

Duran, a resident of Tesuque, N.M., traveled to Connecticut this week to be part of a weeklong break from regular studies sponsored by the school and backed by a state grant, said school Director Bruce Blake. The drum making at Eisenhower Park was one of many out-of-school activities students could choose from, Blake said.

"Kids love hands-on (work), it gets them going," Blake said. "We want to engage students in learning and we are trying to make this fun."

Duran, 52, said she learned Tewa drum making because it was a dying art among her people, as was weaving and other traditions she also teaches.

"These are the works my people did 500 years ago and even before that," Duran said. "I decided I was going to bring it back."

Duran, who works full time at a printing company in addition to her teaching duties, said she enjoys sharing her craft with people of other races, because she believes that people, and objects such as the drum, are part of a world that is all "sacred."

To student Sarah Falzarano, 16, Eisenhower Park provided an ideal setting Friday for the lesson in hollowing pine logs with chisels, and sanding each creation until its surface was level.

"We are working with natural stuff while in the wilderness, instead of being in a classroom," she said, pointing to the woods that abut the entrance to the park.

Junior Ryan Robstock, 17, said he enjoyed the chance to learn a new skill, one that he had not ever expected to part of.

"It's easy, once you know what you are doing," Robstock said, as he pounded a chisel with a large mallet.

Baba Coleman of New Haven was at the event Friday in part to demonstrate to students the art of African drumming. Coleman brought along a drum he made in West African style, as well as a three-drum set he crafted for his daughter, Maya.

Coleman, however, clearly also enjoyed putting down his drumsticks and picking up a chisel to try his hand, side-by-side with Duran, at something different.

"It's a new style of drum-making," he said, with a smile. "I'm learning Native American skills."

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