Felicity Weymer, an Indigenous drum maker located in Stettler, crafts instruments that resonate not only with rhythmic beats but also with deep cultural significance.
Originally from Port Hardy, B.C., Weymer’s journey to becoming a drum maker has been one of healing and rediscovering her roots.
“I’m originally from Port Hardy B.C. My family is mostly from there. My dad lives in Quatsino First Nations, and my daughter and I moved to Stettler, about 20 years ago,” Weymer shared.
Weymer’s artistic journey began after the passing of her mother in 2016, who was an artist herself. The loss sparked inspiration in Weymer to explore her creative side. Then, in 2017, when her stepson passed away, she found solace in painting emotionally charged artworks. This creative process opened new doors for her.
Her path as a drum maker began unexpectedly in a small shop in Red Deer where she was gifted some broken drums.
“She handed me this little broken buffalo drum, and I held it to my chest, and it just absorbed right into my heart. And as I walked around the store, I just kept hearing ‘I am a broken drum, I am broken drum,’ ” Weymer explained. “And so from there, I decided ‘I am Broken Drum,’ and then I created ‘Broken Drum Creative.”
Weymer provided a detailed explanation of drum-making. One must start with a drum frame and hide to create a drum. Next, the lacing is cut from the hide, and 16 holes are punched.
The hide, along with the lacing, is soaked for a few hours, depending on its thickness. Once the hide becomes sufficiently soft, Weymer expertly laces the drum. Subsequently, the drum is left to dry.
An intriguing aspect of Weymer’s process is the tradition of smudging the hide and the finished drum before and after its creation.
Drawing from her Indigenous heritage, Weymer’s drum-making process involves smudging and blessing the animal hide used to construct the drums.
“When my drum is made, I also smudge it, honouring the animal,” she said.
Weymer emphasizes the importance of being in the right frame of mind when making a drum, as she believes negative energy should not be imparted into the instruments.
Weymer’s cultural journey has also been a path of education and outreach.
“I didn’t grow up in my culture. So I didn’t learn a lot of stuff there, like many others, even though there were many that did grow up on reserves. So it’s been a journey for me, a very healing journey making drums, they’re very healing for me,” she explained.
Her passion for drum circles has become a focal point of community bonding and learning.
“A drum circle is a community thing. Anyone can drum, and it can be playful, spiritual, or a whole bunch of things,” Weymer expressed.
She actively shares Indigenous teachings during the drum circles, emphasizing respect for the drums as sacred objects and shedding light on historical matters such as the Indian Act.
Despite being met with occasional prejudice, Weymer believes in the power of education and open dialogue.
“I like to make it my mission now to educate people a little bit more, again, about the Indian Act, because people don’t understand a lot of things,” she shared.
Weymer has found a supportive community in Stettler that embraces her and her craft. She fosters understanding and healing among diverse groups through drum circles and workshops, bridging gaps between cultures and communities.