Let Me Introduce My Tsewtsáwḵen Drum

Me and my drum are often the only fan in the stands. I came to have it through ceremony with purpose. The ceremony was conducted by Xwechtaal Elder Dennis Joseph along with Joseph’s son Ghee-ka-laas (Koru Joseph)

My drum has been with me to over 21 Olympic venues, witnessing over 40 Olympic competitions. We’re getting around – and we have a purpose! I’ll begin with Huy chexw – thank you to Tewanee, Rae-Ann, Koru, Timu, and Melina Joseph for this beautiful gift. Huy chexw Xwechtall, Elder Dennis Joseph for leading the work that was done. Huy chexw to Tsawaysin Spukwas, Alice Guss for making it and to Koru for the beautiful design.

It’s heard across Olympic venues every day, the drum is the heartbeat of the First Nations but has also quickly become the heartbeat of Team Canada in Tokyo. “I had wanted a drum so that Team Canada could hear that someone was there for them,” said McBean. “When I asked Tewanee if this was an appropriate use – he said that it would be and that a drum represents the heartbeat of a community. I knew then this was for friends and family so that their heartbeat could resonate across stadiums. I don’t always know if the athletes can hear it, but I know the families would be making noise – so I make as much noise as I can.”

Joseph, who was CEO of the Four Host First Nations for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, presented the drum, messages from the Squamish Nation community as well as orange lapel ribbons to Canadian Olympic Committee President Tricia Smith.

I spoke with Anastacia Bucis about the drum for an RBC Spotlight feature.

Smith was joined by Olympian Christine Nesbitt, John McBean (Marnie’s brother), Mike Bryden (husband to the late rowing champion Kathleen Heddle), Olympian Clara Hughes, and Tewannee’s daughter Sx̱ánanulh (Melina Joseph) who were called as witnesses. The ceremony was conducted by Xwechtaal Elder Dennis Joseph along with Tewanee’s son Ghee-ka-laas (Koru Joseph). 

“Being called to ‘witness’ in the Coast Salish tradition is a sacred honour and carries responsibilities and duty,” said Tewannee Joseph. “As a witness, they are to listen and watch the traditional work that is taking place. They are to carry the messages back to their home community and to their family and friends.

“Around the rim of the drum is the eye of the creator and the ancestors looking down upon Marnie, the athletes and Team Canada,” added Joseph. “In the centre is a Kwakwaka’wakw copper shield. This represents wealth, honour and respect. The maple leaf represents the athletes and the rings of the Tokyo Games. The drumstick includes the colour orange to stand together in strength, respect, solidarity and family.”

The ceremony was held on Thursday, July 8, 2021, and was documented. The video, narrated by Clara Hughes, is available for download and editorial use here.

4 thoughts on “Let Me Introduce My Tsewtsáwḵen Drum

  1. Keep beating the drum & congratulate all of the athletes that made it to the Tokyo 2020 summer olympics & made us proud to be Canadian

  2. Keep beating the drum… it falls in rhythm with the heartbeat and Mother Earth. Giving strength to those who need it. Ekosi.♥️

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