#lookback: Native American Drums on Exhibit at Pioneer Museum

A series where we take a #lookback at the stories and history of our community, brought to you by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.


The Pioneer Museum in Lander has a new display of Native American drums as part of their Native American collection. The drums on display are from the museum collection and the James and Michael Stewart collection. They range in age from the late 1890s to the steel barrel covered with hide made in the mid – 20th century, the drums are Shoshone, Lakota, and Arapaho.

Drums play an important part in many Native American Indian tribal ceremonies, celebrations and spiritual festivals. These Native American drums are recognized as their own living entity and symbolize a strong tie with the creator. Too many Native American tribes, the Native drum contains thunder and lightning, and when it is beaten it helps to get the creators attention and it also helps contact the spirits of the Native American forefathers.

Many Native Indian tribes had a selected person that they would refer to as the drum keeper, and he watches over the sacred drum. The drum keeper is usually the oldest son of a selected family, and in Native American culture, it is an exceptional honor to be the keeper of the sacred drum.

The Native Americans look at the drum as a living and breathing entity; they believe that the spirits of the tree and animal that the drum was made from life within the drum. They also believe that the beats of the drum help call out to these spirits to protect and watch over them.

Many of the Native American drums varied in size and among different tribes the drums were completely different and made for different Native Indian traditions. All of the ancient Native American drums were made from wood with animal skin heads. Since there were many different animals depending on where the tribes lived some Native American drums were made from deer skins and others were made from buffalo skins.

These drums were extremely important and sacred to the Native American tribes, and there were many sacred ritualistic rules surrounding a drum. Many Native Americans also had other forms of percussion that they would use, and these were hand rattles, which were similar to the drums in the aspect of playing beats and honoring the gods.

The drums had many other uses to the Native people and some included healing ceremonies, war preparation dances, and even festivals to help bring a good harvest. There are still many hand-made Native drums that can be found nationwide on many Native American Indian reservations and at many of these places you can see demonstrations of some of the tribal ceremonies.

In the summer, Native American drummers and dancers do demonstrations on the museum grounds Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. Call the museum for details.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

July 27th, 9 am at the Riverton Museum, “Castle Gardens Adventure Trek”

Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

August 10th, 2 pm at the Riverton Museum, “Superhero Cuffs”

Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

August 13th, 7 pm at the Dubois Museum, “Historic Downtown Dubois Walking Tour”

Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

August 15th, 7 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Tribal Warrior Art”

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum need your financial support. In the current economic environment, the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark over the last four years. Please make your tax-deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.