Her family had a farm with cows, pigs, and chickens. Her father fished, hunted partridge, pheasant, and deer, and was a trapper for the Hudson Bay Company. As a five- or six-year-old, she would drum on an empty oil drum in her yard. She learned how to scrape and prepare skins--skills that would be useful later when she came to make her own drum.
Carolyn identifies as a First Nations person. Although she was not raised in that culture, she is connected and connecting with it now. “I have my mother’s genealogy,” she said.” My ancestors go back to Germain, a Mi’kmaq of Bear River in the 1690s and to Marie Oukioutiabanoukioué, an Algonquin from 1570-1614.”
Carolyn made a drum for herself about ten years ago. She selected a piece of cow hide, a piece with a thin spot that creates a different note than the thicker hide. “I next chose wood--birch --for the frame. I soaked the skin overnight to soften it and was mindful, paying attention as I placed the hide over the frame. The hide will shrink. I want the tension even as it dries. I placed the thin spot in relation to where I hold the drum,” showing me the sinews that she had strung through holes she’d punched in the hide. “There was a buzz to the sinews, so I wrapped them with thread.”
I ask about the green braid drawn around the edge of the drum and the small drawing of bird. “The braid is sweet grass, and bird’s a crow--I have an affinity with crows. I had a pet crow growing up, when I was 8 or 9. It would sit on my shoulder.”
I first met Carolyn at drumming circles and invited her to drum at the Truth and Reconciliation Day ceremony to honour the memory and lives of the Residential School children on September 30, 2021, at Saint Philip Neri Catholic Church in Musquodoboit Harbour. We displayed children’s and adult’s shoes, tied long strands of orange yarn around the church railing, and put up Every Child Matters flag.
Carolyn’s drumming followed a prayer and blessing from Marilyn Murphy, and my words