Peyote water drum and antler drum tool
North America: Plains
Early 20th century
Materials: cast iron, hide, horn, stone, and cord
This object is a kettle drum in the style of the Native American (Peyote) Church. Depending on the tribal affiliation(s) of the drum owner, drums like this one in the Ethnology Collection are typically made from a one gallon (#6) cast iron kettle with three small peg legs on the bottom, sometimes referred to as a dutch oven. The kettle is filled with a small quantity of water and is then covered with a piece of hide, held on by a long piece of rope or cord that is intricately wrapped around seven round stones (or walnuts). A small antler or wooden tool is used to help tie the drum securely. Below you can see a short video that illustrates how drums like this are tied.
Drums play an important role in the songs that are a staple of Native American Church ceremonies. During these ceremonies, which can last all night, each member sings while accompanied by a drum and rattle. The singing begins with the Roadman, or spiritual leader of the group, who sings four songs. After the Roadman, the other members of the group each sing. This rotation is usually completed four times during the night. A sample of a Native American Church song, featuring a similar drum can be found here. [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]