The drum plays an important role in Dene culture, and in Fort Good Hope its role has now literally become monumental.
Members of the community on March 15 held a ceremony inaugurating its new, massive drum that is almost six metres high and made of steel.
It might be the largest drum of its kind in Canada, said Viviane Edgi-Manuel, economic development officer with the K’asho Got’ine government, who led the drum project.
Drum marks Arctic Circle
The idea for the monument came partly as a way to replace an old sign by the Mackenzie River that denoted the position of the Arctic Circle in the Sahtu.
“It was put up in the 1980s. I think it had big lettering. But it was in the wrong position and taken down,” said Edgi-Manuel.
“Now with tourism being talked about so much, our community brought up the sign again and repositioned it, (but) we decided to put it on the winter road. (Here) is the only place in the NWT where the Arctic Circle is accessible by winter road.”
Drum vital cultural symbol
It was then that the concept changed from a sign to a drum.
“We talked about things that are important to our people. It came down to the drum. We use it for prayer. It’s very important for our people and our history, traditions and spiritual beliefs.”
The drum is visible to drivers heading to Colville Lake on the winter road, a route itself built on an old trail that was important to local Dene for hunting and trapping.
People can go view the drum in the summer by taking a helicopter, according to Edgi-Manuel.
Transported from British Columbia
Inkit in Yellowknife was contracted to oversee construction of the drum in British Columbia. It was then driven up to Fort Good Hope by truck. Arctic Circle Enterprise used its heavy equipment to prepare a base of gravel and stones for the drum and to erect it.
The K’asho Got’ine government and GNWT each contributed about half of the funds for the $100,000 project.