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The beat of his soul

Pierre an inspiration to others

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Apr 26/02) - Modeste Pierre logs a lot of miles to give guidance.

"I like to travel lots. Lot of people, they know me. People see me and they call my name," said the Meander River, Alta., elder, who is considered a spiritual healer. "I'm glad to help people, young people too."

Pierre made a stop in Fort Simpson over the weekend to lead a drum-making workshop. On Saturday, he and some of the participants went into the bush, where Pierre selected the birch that would be most suitable for the task. The wood was cut and sanded, readied to be soaked in water and lye to make it flexible enough to round it into a band.

A caribou hide, to be stretched over the wooden band, was also prepared for the workshop with assistance from elders Eliza Cli and Violet McLeod.

Pierre said he made his first drum close to 40 years ago under the tutelage of his father and other community members. Since then he and some fellow drummers have performed all over the country and in the United States too.

"Any place they want us and we have time, we never say no," he said.

The drum is not only used to make rhythmic music, it is also a sacred instrument. Therefore, learning to make one is a privilege, according to Suza Tsetso, who organized the workshop with Walter Edwards.

"It's a spiritual journey in itself. There's a lot of knowledge that goes with it," Tsetso said. "From what Modeste has told us the drum is our Bible ... it's used for prayer and stories. It's pretty powerful."

Pierre said there are drum songs for young people and old people, for the sick and for the Creator's blessing prior to a hunt.

It's imperative for drummers to be sober, he added.

"A drummer's not supposed to drink," he said. "Drugs and alcohol is no good."

Tsetso echoed those words, stating that gender isn't an issue for drumming but having a pure heart and balanced lifestyle is obligatory.

Pierre will be returning after break-up to complete the lesson. Tsetso said she's grateful for his insight on drum making.

"It's such a lost art. It's good that we're starting to do this again," she said.