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Students Connect Through Cultural Activities

April 8, 2020

Cultural Activities Through Drumming

Drumming is a long-standing tradition for many Native Americans and packs powerful meaning and a celebration of history. A tradition that has spanned thousands of years, the drumbeat represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth. 

The Indian Education program at Moorhead Area Public Schools began looking into purchasing a traditional drum to provide culturally relevant learning experiences for their students. Purchased from a company in Canada, this drum is bringing learning and cultural heritage to students.

Zachary Wilkie, Indian Education Home and Cultural Liaison, knows the importance of having opportunities to connect with your heritage. “When I grew up, I was the only Native kid. Being a part of our drum group is a heartwarming and rewarding experience. Seeing the students want to learn and participate in their culture is the reason we create these opportunities,” he says.

Recently, the drum arrived and excited students were provided the opportunity to learn more about their culture and participate in the drumming practice. Students gathered around as mentors Tim Cottonwood and Michael Gabbard began with blessing the drum before their initial lesson. This lesson included teaching students proper protocols that are followed while sitting at the drum. Students also learned the process and textiles that are involved in making a drum.

Native American Cultural Support

Delores Gabbard has worked as an Indian Education Home and Cultural Liaison for three years and volunteered on the Indian Education Committee as a parent prior to working for the School District. “The unique connections we make with students is my favorite part of the job. Seeing a Native American student’s face light up because they see someone like them is powerful,” she says.

Moorhead Area Public Schools Indian Education Program has been around for over 25 years. The goal of the program is to provide support for Native American students to help them thrive and ultimately achieve graduation. The program which has liaisons in the schools for students PreK-12 provides many services such as home visits and phone calls, tutoring, monthly newsletters, college and career readiness and cultural activities like drumming lessons.

Providing Student Cultural Connections

The new drum brings excitement and dreams to the program. It is providing important opportunities for students to connect with their cultural heritages. The goal is to teach drumming, singing and dancing with the hope of someday participating in local pow-wows as a group.

“When we develop cultural connection opportunities, we evaluate if it’s working for families and if they are interested in it. Then we are able to build on the programming. So far, we have had increased participation at every drumming practice,” says Amy Zanotti, Supervisor of Secondary Learning and Accountability.

Drumming is an important component at a pow-wow. Whether dancing, singing or just listening, people around the drum can connect. Gabbard is excited when the day comes for them to continue drum practices in person, but for now, they are working to set up virtual learning experiences for students.

To learn more about the drumming group, or the Indian Education Program. Contact Amy Zanotti at

Categorized under: School

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