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Drum Dance Ceremony in Naujaat (Nunavut)

June 12, 2020 | Ian Kalinowsky

Margot (my spouse and tour director for Great Canadian Travel) and I were escorting a group of clients to venture out to the Floe Edge in the community of Naujaat, Nunavut (formerly Repulse Bay and translated as “seagull nesting place”) and to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on the summer solstice – June 21, 2018. Naujaat is considered to be a “traditional” community in that they rely on hunting and fishing for their sustenance.

The Naujaat community has built a wonderful “elders’ retreat” outside of the community. It is away from the hustle and bustle of the community and allows for contemplation, quiet enjoyment of each other’s company and celebrations. Our group was invited into the retreat to experience and learn about drum dancing.

  A Qulliq – a traditional, soapstone oil-lamp filled with sealskin oil – was ceremonially lit and placed on a table by a window overlooking the rolling hills and Hudson Bay in the background. It was very calming.

  The elders then explained to us the traditions behind the drum dance.

Essentially, a drum was made from whale bone with a hide of some sort stretched across it and was played by a man who was out hunting. The man played the drum and composed a song about his life, or the hunt. He returned home and passed the words of the song on to his wife. When people gather together the man will play the drum and the women will sing the song.

It was very exciting and a touching moment to watch the elders teach the young great-grandson how to play the drum. The traditions and the history continue to be passed on.

Teaching traditions of the Drum Ceremony

Read my other blogs on our experiences on the Floe Edge, on the Never Setting Sun and others on the Naujaat community. If you are interested in travelling to the Arctic, either individually or with one of my groups, please contact me.