Dreamers & The Land | DOIG RIVER DRUMMERS
Our Doig River Drummers are very important to our community and to the other Dane-zaa bands. They perform at memorial Dreamers' Dances, and at community events such as our 2005 Treaty Land Entitlement celebration.
All members of our community may sing our Dreamers' songs whenever they like; but it is our tradition that only men accompany the songs by playing hand drums at Dreamers' Dances and other events.
Our Doig River Drummers have a number of lead singers such as Tommy Attachie and Sam Acko. These men follow in a long line of songkeepers who remember the songs and the people who dreamed them. During performances they pass on their knowledge of the Dreamers' songs, which extends back over 200 years, by referring to each Dreamer as they sing their songs.
Any member of our drumming group can become a songkeeper with time. The newer members of the group learn the songs by listening and practicing with the group; and if they become skilled, they will take on the roles of lead singer, teacher, and keeper of our Dreamers' song tradition.
In the following excerpt, Tommy describes the way in which Dreamers find their songs. He also explains the central role of drummers and singers in helping our Dreamers maintain their songs here on earth:
All these Prophets when they sleep they get the song.
They said just like a small ball from Heaven.....
As soon as they wake up, they sing that song over and over...
And all these song leaders, like us [the Doig River Drummers]...
As soon as he sing different song they all go in there, they sit in there, play drum...
And over and over, pretty soon just the one he hear exactly the way it is.
And he told them that's good right there. Keep going.
And they sing it.
All the people gather some food. They dance.
That's how these songs, they pick it up...
That's how we come in here we sing it today.
Tommy Attachie, 2005 (Catalog #DZVMCMD7-3-051of2).
Our song tradition was almost lost during the hard years for us following the construction of the Alaska Highway in the 1940s. With the settlement of our lands, and our forced settlement on reserves, we lost access to many of our hunting and trapping areas and their plant and animal resources - and this hurt our culture. Despite struggles with alcoholism and other effects of colonialism, we maintain the songs of our Dreamers and they continue to be a source of strength.
Listen to songkeepers Tommy Attachie and Sam Acko telling about reviving our Dreamers' song tradition, and drum making tradition, and about how they are sharing these traditional skills with to our younger generations.
To listen to more of our Dreamers' songs, visit Songs.
Doig River Drummers Photos:
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Doig River Drummers perform for community members and Crown negotiators. Doig River, 2005.Click to Watch
Sam Acko, talking about the revitalization of drum-making and singing traditions at Doig River. Hanás̱ Saahgéʔ (Doig River), 2005.Click to Watch
Tommy Attachie, recalling how he learned to drum and sing. Doig River Museum, 2005.Click to Watch
Tommy Attachie and the Doig River Drummers singing a song by the Dreamer Adíshtl'íshe, Doig River, 2004.Click to Listen