Keith Felix Jr. of Tuktoyaktuk has been making drums for eight years under the instruction of his father, Stanley Felix, and his uncle, Norman Shepherd Felix. Now, he’s sharing his craft at the Inuvik Youth Centre.
“It was unexpected for me that I’d be invited to come here to teach,” said Felix Jr. “But I’d like to pass the skill on to the next generation so we can keep this alive for future Inuvialuit people.”
Felix Jr. said he has taught workshops at the youth centre in Tuktoyaktuk as well as to children at Mangilaluk School in the hamlet.
The workshop, which is funded by the NWT Arts Council, is running at the centre from May 16 until early June.
Felix Jr. said drum making and drum dancing has always been part of his life.
“I first started drum dancing when I was six years old, at one of my brother’s birthday parties,” said Felix Jr. “Drumming and dancing are a huge part of my culture … my father, my grandfathers, we’re Inuvialuit, this is a family tradition.”
Felix Jr. said it takes two days to make a drum, because you have to steam the red oak frame and leave it clamped in the circular drum shaper overnight.
“It’s not easy work,” said Felix Jr. “But I really enjoy it.”
The rest of the drum, Felix Jr. said, is made up of white parachute for the drum face, sinew to tie the parachute to the frame and a piece of caribou antler for the drum handle.
Felix Jr. said he hopes to make approximately 30 drums during the three-week workshop, some of which will stay at the youth centre, while others will be donated to organizations in Inuvik.
He said he thinks it is important to pass on the skill of drum making.
“This is an important part of our culture … it is getting lost,” he said. “We need to pass it on to kids to keep it alive.”