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‘Sing with a good heart’

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | April 2, 2024 1:06 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Drumbeats and strong, clear voices filled the Student Union Building at North Idaho College on Monday afternoon.

“When I wake up in the morning, it is you that’s on my mind,” four women sang, pounding a large drum in rhythm, as NIC students and small kids from the Children’s Center watched. “When I go to bed, it is you running through my head.”

American Indian Heritage Week kicked off Monday at NIC with a performance by the Rose Creek Singers, a group of women drummers from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe.

The group is one of only a few in the Northwest comprised of only women.

“A lot of tribes don’t allow women to sit at the big drum,” said drummer Andy Lansing. “We did get the drum because, way back when, our females fought in a war and they helped the males. That’s why we are allowed.”

Many of the songs they perform include chanting. Some have words in the Coeur d’Alene language, snchitsu’umshtsn, and some incorporate English words.

Lansing said there’s a rule when it comes to music: Dance with good feelings and sing with a good heart.

“If you’re having a bad day, we usually tell the girls they can sit at the drum but not to drum,” she said. “When you’re feeling like that, you let those feelings out.”

Drumming and singing are positive forces for the Rose Creek Singers.

“A lot of us grew up in dysfunctional families with alcohol and drugs,” Lansing said. “This is what kept us clean from all that. We have to come to the drum sober.”

Amy Bardwell, NIC’s American Indian student adviser, said the annual American Indian Heritage Week serves a dual purpose.

“It is to both educate our community and honor the historical significance of this space,” she said.

For centuries, the people of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe gathered to hunt, fish, dance, play games, feast and swim in the area where the college now stands, where the lake feeds into the Spokane River. The special site was called Yap-Keehn-Um, which means “the gathering place.” The beach still bears that name.

Bardwell said community members are welcome to attend the week’s activities.

“It’s an opportunity to experience, learn something they didn’t know before and gain a greater understanding of the Native American communities that are part of the fabric of our nation,” she said.

American Indian Heritage Week activities will continue Wednesday with a 4 p.m. screening of the movie “More than Frybread.”

Tiffany Midge, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux and author of the memoir “Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s,” will speak at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Events are held at the Student Union Building, upstairs in the Lake Coeur d’Alene Room.