Medicine Drum

Northwest Coast
Art Type
Silkscreen on Wove Paper
Signed Limited Edition Print # 91 of 222
Size (in)
Paper (H x W): 22 x 20 in / Frame (H x W x D): 25 ¾ x 25 x 1 in
Size (cm)
Paper (H x W): 56 x 51 cm / Frame (H x W x D): 65 x 64 x 2.5 cm
Product ID



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Medicine Drum’ by Joe David – First Nations Northwest Coast Nuu-chah-nulth Art presented by DaVic Gallery of Native Canadian Arts.

Condition: No condition noted.

Collector’s Note: Print year is ambiguous in that different galleries may describe it as 1974, 1977, and 1979. I have determined 1977 by elimination process by comparing Joe David’s handwriting of numbers “4” and “9”.

Frame: Print is framed with triple acid free mat. Frame is metallic and black in color.   Please note that for safety reasons, print will be shipped framed and without glass. Alternatively, glass may be replaced with resistant acrylic transparent glass that is safe for shipping at additional cost.  Please inquire.

Description by Artist:  No description by artist found.

Notes from DaVic Gallery:  ‘Medicine Drum‘ – The Drum has been part of every culture on earth, prominent at one time or another. For our native people the drum represents the heartbeat. It is believed that the inside of an actual long house represents the inside of a whale. The large beams and planks of wood representing the spine and ribs of a whale, while the drums are considered its heartbeat and the songs represent the spirit of the whale.

Drummers are known to congregate and play individual hand drums together. The use of a single drum was traditionally isolated to a few groups, such as the Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl), who are known to have used a single wooden plank struck by multiple players. As in other regions, the drum is used to begin and to mark certain points within a song. Some indigenous people of the Northwest Coast utilize the drum to indicate the presence of spirits. For example, a tremolo created by rapidly striking the drumhead can be perceived as an audible manifestation of a spirit being’s presence. Aside from use within the potlatch setting, drums are employed by shamans—powerful individuals who have the ability to move in the liminal space between this world and others, communicating with spirit guides. Many of the musical instruments used on the Northwest Coast can be associated with shamanic practice. Often, a physical representation of a shaman’s spirit guide is carved in the form of a rattle or whistle, as an effigy used to invoke the spirit’s power.

The Native Symbol or Totem Eagle is known as “The master of skies” and is a symbol of great significance. He is believed to be the creature with the closest relationship with the creator. By soaring great heights, he can travel between the physical world and the spiritual world. He is said to be a messenger to the creator. Unlike the raven’s ability to send messages down, the eagle sends messages and prayers to the Creator. If an Eagle was seen during a Prayer session it was a sign of having a prayer accepted If a prayer needed immediate attention from the creator an eagle feather would be held up towards the sky. Although every part of the eagle has separate and significant meanings, the Eagle as a whole signifies focus, great strength, peace, leadership and incredible prestige. The wings of an eagle symbolize the balance and co-dependency between females and males, and how each gender must work unitedly in order to achieve harmonious results. The eagle feather plays a substantial part in religious and shamanic practices and ceremonies. The feathers were only allowed to be worn by people who had earned the privilege. For example warriors that had done extremely well in battles would have a feather rewarded to them. The eagle feather transmits strength; it gives the ability to speak honestly from the heart, without hurt or anger. The middle vane in the feather symbolizes the path that every man walks in their life time, and every barb that comes of the middle vane symbolizes the choices we all have in life, and that every choice we make is attached to the middle or main path that we take. Eagle down is scattered in entrances as a friendly welcome when people of great importance come and it is also often used in dances. Besides being a member of many different clans, every descendant from the Northwest Coast First Nations belongs to either a Raven or Eagle Clan. The membership is always defined by which clan the individuals mother belonged to.

The Moon lightens the darkness of the night and is known as the guardian of the earth at night and the night-time protector of humans. Moon is a symbol of power and was traditionally used to show prestige. Full moons are credited with providing direction, vision and guidance. He signifies height as a sign of status. The Moon has the ability to change our moods and thoughts.

The Moon was the exclusive crest of only a few of the highest ranking chiefs. Northwest coast First Nations legend tells us of the Raven who is said to have released the Moon into the sky. The stars are pieces of the Moon that flung off when Raven threw it into the sky. An eclipse was said to be a Codfish trying to swallow the Moon. In order to prevent this, a bonfire was set with green boughs to add smoke. As people danced ceremonially around the fire, thick smoke rose to the sky causing the codfish to cough and spit out the Moon. When the people saw the Moon appear at the edge of the mountain they would drum to bring the Moon higher into the sky.