A Journey to What Matters Project Grant
Wellness & Healing Through Our Culture & Connections
From Rochelle Adams, Project Facilitator

The Drum Making Workshop was amazing. It was a great way to bring people together over a difficult issue and to uplift one another and promote healing while practicing culture and connecting with the community. The event was entirely online, participants were multigenerational and multicultural residential schools survivors, descendants and community organizers from many different areas of Alaska. Such as Anchorage, Fairbanks, Beaver, Sitka and Hoonah.

During our time on Zoom together we created a safe and sacred space with an elder led welcoming & prayer with Chief Rev. Dr. Trimble Gilbert of Vaashraii K’oo, traditional healing practices with traditional healer Yaari Walker and an open and comfortable dialogue while we worked on the drums together. Rochelle led the drum workshop and participants were able to follow along with their drum making and healing kits that were sent out to them through the mail.

We talked about the issue of residential schools with a special guest James Labelle. He is a residential school survivor and strong advocate on the issue for healing and justice. It was a gift to be able to listen to his firsthand experience and to hear from all of the participants and the ways that residential schools have impacted their lives. To help us frame the discussion around the history of the assimilation and reclamation of culture, we watched the PBS Kids show Molly of Denali episode called , “Gramp’s Drum” that Rochelle had helped work on in her role as Alaska Native cultural advisor for the show. We also brought in two other cultural advisors Dewey Hoffman and Princess Johnson that shared the Dene drumming song in the episode that they had written themselves. Once the drums were completed and dried, the next day we learned how to drum and sing some healing songs that uplift our spirits and we sent love and healing to all directions.