- Campbell Stevenson | October 19, 2023
For more than three years, Norman Ledoux, from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, has been crafting traditional drums, hand drums, flutes and rattles.
Although this venture began a few short years ago, it has already been met with great success across the world.
Ledoux spent several years working at ‘unfulfilling’ jobs and when he felt it was time to ‘slow down’, he decided to explore the art of drum making.
Beginning this journey was easier than anticipated.
“It was a gift I didn’t know I had,” said Ledoux. “After a visit from my late father, who was looking for his rattle, he told me what I should be doing.”
It was a big lifestyle change, so before he acted he discussed it with his wife and gave it careful thought and consideration.
“It just seemed like people were waiting,” said Ledoux, after he began creating drums and rattles. “It was natural.”
Born and raised in Saskatchewan, several years ago he moved to Haida Gwaii, B.C. where he lives for most of the year with his family.
It’s there, Ledoux gathers the materials he needs.
He sources his hides, such as deer, buffalo and elk from the Hudson Bay area in B.C.
The cedar used to create the drum frames is gathered from local mills; the wood for drumsticks, and stones for rattles from the beaches of Haida Gwaii.
During the summer months, Ledoux returns to Saskatchewan by RV, transporting a trailer, with all his tools and supplies.
Many of his drums have been purchased and shipped across the world. The majority of his clientele are from the U.S. and abroad.
When he’s not filling orders from his online store Black Sage Woodworks, Ledoux works in schools and community centres hosting drum making workshops.
He provides the supplies, as well as the step-by-step instructions on how to respect, and construct the drums. When hosting these workshops, Ledoux provides an environment free from judgment.
He asks the students to relax and clear their minds before the lessons start.
“Just give me two hours of happiness and laughter, and smiles,” Ledoux asks the students. “You want good feelings, good spirits going into your drum, to where you can depend on it to make you feel good.”
When he first started making drums he was met mostly with positivity but there was some criticism.
Ledoux emphasizes both comfort and inclusiveness.
“I always question things,” he said. “One of the biggest things is ‘women shouldn’t be able to play drums’…No one has been able to tell me why.”
Ledoux believes in exercising kindness in everything he does, and this includes drum making.
He has hosted women-only workshops.
Moving forward, he hopes more Indigenous people, especially Indigenous women, will break away from negativity, and the fear of doing things the wrong way.
“Our creator is very forgiving,” said Ledoux. “We have to go with what’s in our heart, what makes us feel good.”
As a drum maker, Ledoux believes it isn’t just about crafting instruments it’s about honouring the ancestors and strengthening the bonds that tie Indigenous people together.