Indigenous educator hopes 30 stolen drums will be returned

Chantal Chagnon uses drumming to help students and patients heal, learn and forgive.

And she’s willing to direct that same compassion to whoever stole the 30 drums she uses to help others.

“They’re such an essential part of connecting community … healing and of forgiveness and that path towards truth and reconciliation,” the Calgary-based Cree Ojibwe Metis musician and educator said Thursday.

“If they can find a place to just drop them off or even just leave an anonymous tip of where they’re located, just to bring them home, that would be amazing.”

On Tuesday, between 1 and 5 a.m., someone broke into Chagnon’s van, which was parked outside her home business, Cree8, on the well-lit Dalhart Road in northwest Calgary.

Chantal Chagnon kept most of her drums in her van because they were too heavy to bring inside after every seminar. (Chantal Chagnon)

The drums were in a large black duffel bag, which she used to move the instruments between schools and medical centres for her seminars. She thinks the thieves thought the bag contained hockey gear or something worth more money.

They left other drums that were more visible, she said. The thieves also took a ceremonial knife.

She noticed them missing later that morning when she went outside to take the van to work at a school. She called the police and filed a report. Since then, she’s been alerting pawn shops and watching classified advertising websites.

Musician Chantal Chagnon lends her drums to students and patients so they can play. (Chantal Chagnon)

“I’ve been working on them for at least the last decade, if not more. The oldest drum in the bag is about 12 years old,” she told the Calgary Eyeopener. “And one drum can take anywhere between an hour and eight or nine hours to make.”

Each is made to be unique, created from either deer, elk, moose or buffalo rawhide, to represent the directions of a medicine wheel. They’re hand woven with rawhide lacing in the back, so they last a long time.

“But because each of them is unique and I put my own heart and soul into each,” Chagnon said, “you can’t really pin down what they look like because they all look different.”

‘Hardest part’

Chagnon has roots in Muskeg Lake Cree Nation but now lives and works in Calgary. She goes into Calgary schools to run educational seminars with students, teaching traditional singing, drumming and storytelling.

Chantal Chagnon made all of her missing drums by hand. Each takes between one and nine hours to make. (Chantal Chagnon)

She’s also used similar teachings to help businesses and community groups involved with people who, for example, have disabilities or illnesses like cancer or Parkinson’s.

“I think that’s the hardest part. When you go into schools and you’re sharing with kids and just to see how they light up when you open the bag full of drums. They’re like, ‘we actually get to play a drum?'” she said.

“Some kids are so quiet. A drum in their hand and they start opening up and they start singing — and teachers are in tears because they’ve never seen some kids so engaged before.

“It’s breathtaking to see such a simple ceremonial and spiritual object can cause so much joy and so much healing.”

Listen to Chantal Chagnon describe how drumming helps her connect with her students:

Chantal Chagnon tells us the importance of her drums in her work as an indigenous musician and educator. 5:34

Chagnon says she will continue her workshops without the drums, and in the meantime will set to work making new ones.

Anyone with information on the missing drums is asked to contact the Calgary Police Service’s non-emergency line at 403-266-1234 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 403-262-8477.


​With files from Lisa Robinson and the Calgary Eyeopener.


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    Sherwood Park

    Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area.[7] It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary,[8] generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road).[9] Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.[9]

    Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016,[6] Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.

    History

    Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
    Geography

    The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton.[8] The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.

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