BEMIDJI BONDS: Wednesday nights bring Native American drummers to OIC in Bemidji
For five years running, Wednesday night has been drum night at the Northwest Indian OIC in Bemidji. "The purpose of this is to bring people together from the community, from all over the Bemidji area, and to provide kind of like a social gatherin...
For five years running, Wednesday night has been drum night at the Northwest Indian OIC in Bemidji.
“The purpose of this is to bring people together from the community, from all over the Bemidji area, and to provide kind of like a social gathering and also an education to do a cultural teaching,” said Rod Northbird, who has worked at the OIC for about six months.
Each drum night focuses on a different lesson, and new drum keepers are asked to bring their drum and lead the singing, according to Northbird.
“Each night that we do meet, we try to teach them something different,” he said. “Whether it’d be where the songs came from, the drumsticks, and how things come together. So it’s more of a sharing aspect, too.”
On Aug. 5, Rodney Johnson Jr., a member of the Leech Lake Nation singers, provided the drum.
Out of respect for close ones who have passed away, the lesson that day focused on prayer and healing, according to Northbird.
“We have a lot of members who have relatives that have passed on recently,” he said. “So tonight we’re singing for healing.”
Northbird said every week they have a final song that highlights what the lesson was about.
Although the OIC welcomes new visitors every week, the regulars have developed a longstanding relationship that extends beyond Wednesday night drum night.
“(I’ve been) working with about four or five of them who are here all the time. We develop that bond, and we go to powwows, we travel together,” Northbird said.
The majority of the people at drum night take part in the drum playing and singing, but some also just go to watch and enjoy it. Mothers bring their kids to play with toys and learn as the men beat the drum.
“We’re providing an opportunity for people to sing, to listen to the drum,” Northbird said. “Just to bring the people together to have that one certain part of the day to relax, to think of good feelings, and for that good healing.”