NEGAUNEE - With the smell of sage in the air, the sound of a drum beating fills the room as students, parents and teachers sing traditional Native American songs.
The Negaunee Public Schools has many students with a Native American heritage. As part of Title VII - a program designed to ensure no American Indian student is left behind - Negaunee holds a Youth Drum Circle throughout the year to teach students of Native American descent about their heritage and other students about a tradition other than their own.
"Several of our families here at Negaunee are identified as Native Americans," said Lakeview Elementary Assistant Principal Warren Potts. "This meeting allows students and families to learn more about their heritage. During the circle (Don Dakota) talks about the traditions of the drum beating."
Don Dakota, third from left, of Ishpeming explains the different beats the circle is playing on the Teal Lake Drum during the Negaunee Public Schools’ Youth Drum Circle Wednesday at Lakeview Elementary School in Negaunee. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
Sage is burned at the beginning of a drum circle.
Negaunee High School junior Rose Ritchie, 18, dances to the beat of the drum at the Negaunee Public Schools Youth Drum Circle. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
A close-up view of the circle participants keeping the beat. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
Andrew Feys, 9, concentrates on keeping a beat while druming Wednesday (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
Don Dakota of Ishpeming is the holder of the Teal Lake Drum, a teaching drum passed down from person to person. Dakota runs the Youth Drum Circle teaching the students who come about the different beats and songs.
"It's a wonderful thing that as Native people we can have a drum in a public school and share it with the school," Dakota said "There are a lot of places where that doesn't happen in this country a lot."
Dakota said the Teal Lake Drum is a teaching drum only and is never taken to pow wows. It was passed on to him when the previous carrier left the area. When Dakota can no longer carry it, he must pass it on to someone who can, he said.
"This is a teaching drum and what's cool is that we can bring it into a school for students who we can share a little bit of culture with," Dakota said. "When they're young it exposes them to something they might not get exposed to and it exposes them to that little bit of culture in them, which is great."
The drum circle is open to any student, but Native American students will be given first priority. The next drum circle is March 20 at 6 p.m. in the Lakeview Elementary School cafeteria.
Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org