Pow wow set to beat of a drumPublished 8:04pm Monday, August 27, 2012
For John Warren and his son, John T. Warren, drumming has been a part of their lives for decades.
So has the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians’ Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa Pow Wow, which begins Saturday and will feature the father-son drummers along with other drum circles.
John T., 35, who is distinguished from his father by his middle initial, was raised around drummers and singers. He began playing when he was just 6 years old.
“I’m very passionate about it and it makes me feel good to do it,” John T. said. “It’s a stress reliever.”
Warren, while familiar with the tradition since he was young, didn’t get started until later in life after he felt something was missing. After a visit to elder tribal member Clarence White, that all changed.
“Clarence had a dream that young people of the tribe would come to him, so he made a drum,” Warren said Monday. “He made it in 1972 and I showed up in 1985.”
From that point, John involved himself and his son in drumming, which also includes singing. But according to Warren, the drum is not a musical instrument. John T. describes it as a “ceremonial tool.”
“It is the tool we use,” Warren said. “I call the drum ‘grandmother.’”
Warren said the drum is viewed as the heartbeat of the Potawatomi people. After the first drum was given to a woman, she then gave it to a little boy and entrusted him with the protection of the heartbeat, hence the term “grandmother.”
“The drum sits in the center of us and is placed on cedar, which is a woman’s protection medicine,” Warren said. “I view the drum as female.”
Warren and John T. have made records of their songs and have traveled all over the country, using vacation time from their day jobs to attend other pow wows and drumming opportunities. Among songs that the group performs, some are declared social songs for dancing, prayer songs or honor songs.
“I’m a songmaker,” John T. said. “I began making songs when I was 6 and you chant what you feel at that time. Then I record it and we all learn to play it.”
Currently, the duo is part of group of eight singers called Ribbon Town.
“I initially grew up in South Bend and that’s where John T. was born,” Warren said. “South Bend is called Ribbon Town, so we stuck with that name.”
John T. also said that anyone who joins the drum circle must be honest and clean.
“Everyone who sits down at that drum has to have a clean mind, body and spirit,” John T. said.
Warren said one of the main reasons he continues to drum and sing is because it serves a purpose in the Potawatomi community.
“As human begins, we desire to belong to something,” Warren said. “I’m part of something that gives back to the community and is a multi-generational bridge between children and elders. It’s a euphoric feeling.”
The Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa Pow Wow begins Saturday at the Rodgers Lake campus, 58620 Sink Rd., Dowagiac. Vendors and cultural presenters will be set up Saturday morning before the grand entry of dancers and singers begins at 1 p.m.