Various towns in Michigan
Anishnabek singing and hand drumming
As Wabanaisee leader Mae Pego expresses, "Our elders tell us that the drum is the heartbeat of our nation and the drumbeat is the heartbeat of our mother earth. We sing for peace, strength, unity, and mother earth…We are never alone in this journey. We acknowledge and say migwech [thanks] to the creator for the many blessings in our lives, mother earth, our ancestors and the future generations. For the gift of our dewegan (drum), the songs, and the song dreamers. To our families, friends, children and grandchildren."
Wabanaisee is a contemporary style Anishnabek women's hand drum group formed in 2005. Within the group's first year, they requested a name from a traditional man who was guided by the spirits to bless them with the name Wabanaisee an Anishnabek word that translates in English to describe the snowbird, a white bird known as a tough little bird that braves the long, cold northern winters and is rarely seen alone, preferring to sing and playfully fly around in groups. Like the snowbird, members of Wabanaisee enjoy a successful closeness, choosing to live their lives following the practices and ethics of their ancestors who guide every aspect of their lives.
Wabanaisee performs honor songs, ceremonial songs, social songs, and round dance songs they have created as well as ones they have learned from others. Some are sung with vocables, others are sung in the Anishnabek language, and still others are in English. Some women have joined the group with their instruments in hand while others waited for them to be reveled. The relationship between the drum and the shaker is considered personal and, for many, their instruments serve as an extension of the family.
As Mae says, "Our dewegan and the teachings that come from the drum along with our mind, body, and spirit are treated with reverence and respect. We believe we have been entrusted to care for our drum and shaker, and we always consider these sacred items before during and after our performance. We encourage and educate our audience to listen with a spiritual ear as we continue to bring women songs forward to various community functions, and ceremonies."