Artifact of the Month
Artifact of the Month: November 2023

Beat of the Drum

Music, especially drumming, is an important part of ceremonies and gatherings for all cultures, including the Indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast. The resonating sound from a drumbeat begins a song and may emphasize certain points or elements of a song. Hand-held drums are generally made with animal hide stretched over a round wood frame and held taut with bands of sinew. The circle shape represents an unbroken connection.

This month's featured artifact is a skin drum painted by Robert Davidson and given to Selina Peratrovich at a potlatch in November 1981. The drum, named Children of the Good People, features a repeating formline design around the edge. The design is vibrant red with black ovoids and split U elements. Recalling the drum in 2018, Davidson wrote the following to museum staff, "I gave away two dozen drums that I made but did not paint them all. This was a special one for a special naanii who I called naanii Selina. The design is a repeating what I call kugann jaad (Mouse Woman)." In Haida traditions, Mouse Woman is the mother of Raven and often depicted as a grandmother-type figure who acts as a guide for navigating the human and spiritual realms.

Guud San Glans "Eagle of the Dawn" (Robert Davidson) is one of Canada's most prolific and respected Haida artists. He was born in Hydaburg, Alaska in 1946 and as an infant moved to Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, where he grew up in the village of Masset. Davidson comes from a long line of well-respected Haida artisans and began learning to carve in his youth. In 1969, at the age of 22, he carved the first totem pole in Masset in nearly a century, reinvigorating long oppressed cultural traditions. Teaching has been a key feature among his many accolades. Davidson taught design classes in 1984 and 1985 for the Native Arts Studies Program at the Totem Heritage Center.

Object ID #: THS
Selina Peratrovich Memorial Collection
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Drum with painted formline designDrum with painted formline design