On January 6, the District I Community Center Drum and Dance began their winter session. Sessions run eight weeks in duration with an average attendance of 65 participants. "Drum and dance means unity in our community," said co-organizer Bob Eagle. "It means creating a safe space for our youth. It means strengthening our community values. I enjoy bringing my family here; it is rewarding."
When co-organizers began this community-driven effort in May 2019, the event brought in a small handful of participants. However, by maintaining consistency through high community interest and collaboration with several Mille Lacs Band programs, numbers grew from 15 to 95 within eight months.
Drum and dance provides the community with the opportunity to engage in knowledge about cultural values and tradition. Males mentor others about drum protocol, songs, and dance, while females mentor others about dance. It is a safe space where families and generations come together to spend time as a community, laugh, and enjoy a meal. Winnie Davis has been cooking delicious meals on a weekly basis, which has brought in a lot of happy eaters.
Community organizer Luther Sam has been instrumental in recruiting and maintaining the consistency of the event. "I believe drum and dance cultivates the culture, and it keeps the tradition of song and dance alive, while bringing a very positive atmosphere to the community," said Luther. "It is open to all ages and it encourages the young men to come and sing and people to come out and dance. It is a safe place for families while maintaining a drug-and-alcohol-free zone."
During the fall session in 2019, drum and dance was spon- sored primarily through the Mille Lacs Band Public Health’s Tobacco Free Communities Grant, in collaboration with the Office of District I Representative Sandra Blake. Currently, the event is funded solely through Sandra’s office, volunteers, and donations from the community. "It is great to see the community come together to donate their time and knowledge. I enjoy helping out and to get all the kids involved," said participant Randell Sam.
Another great addition to the evening has been Makazin games taught by David "Amik" Sam Sr. David volunteers his time to mentor participants and teach them how to play the game. "It is the opportunity to share something that I love so deeply, sharing the teachings with the kids and those that want to learn the game — the healing game," David said.
Drum and dance will continue through February with a short break in March to prepare for spring and will begin with a feast to welcome the new season of spring. Everyone is invited to attend.