Teya Peya Productions

First Nations
Txa'nii Gyet (All  The People) Power of Purpose Programming, and, All About North American Indigenous Cultures

Shannon Thunderbird, M.A.
Artistic/Academic Director

Proudly in Service to Indigenous People & the World Community Since 1991

Principal Graham Brown, St. Paul's University College, University of Waterloo.


It has taken me a couple of days to respond to your email of September 12, 2014 as I have had to try and make sense of the pomposity of the spin you tried to put on this debacle. The initial invitation to attend the University of Waterloo Powwow on September 27, 2014, WAS NEVER as a hand drum group as I am not, and have never been, part of a such a group. Given that all the emails between myself and your administrative staff have referred to Moonstone big drum's participation in the powwow, to apologize for a misunderstanding that never occurred in the first place is ridiculous. You have either had the facts misrepresented or you are trying to find some smoke and mirror wiggle room by creating an explanation to alter the facts of the original invitation. There is no excuse that is relevant here.


Now the crux: If I was a member of a hand-drum group, this entire situation would never have occurred in the first place. Women are allowed to bow their heads and humbly play hand drums in the presence of men at a powwow. Why, in other words, would these abusive men, i.e., Mark Lavallee of the Chippewa Travellers show up to a secret meeting on August 26th, 2014 to protest and threaten to "forcibly remove me or worse," if I was with a hand drum group? Not logical, Principal Brown, not logical at all. You state that "we invite recognized, knowledgeable members of the local aboriginal community to determine the spiritual and ceremonial content for the powwow." Really? It would appear these so-called knowledgeable people who were invited to sit in judgement of myself and my drum did not speak their truths, so intimidated were they by the abuse that was taking place. I was disallowed to attend the meeting that was deciding the fate of my participation; significantly, I am extremely knowledgeable about drum teachings.


What is of paramount importance is that you acknowledge that violence by direct threat and innuendo, notwithstanding gender discrimination has occurred under your watch. Indigenous women are by far the most marginalized citizens in this country, and I will not stand idly by while a university of all places, decides to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to what has occurred and, by doing so, sanctions the abusers. Regardless of the fact that the Waterloo police have been informed, there is a certain incredulity that you would not take the appropriate stand which is to ban these men from the powwow instead of the innocent Thunderbird Women's Big Drum Group. 


Aboriginal history is clearly delineated between pre- and post-European contact. In pre-contact times, Native communities were egalitarian societies that stressed gender equality. Only as post-European contact belief systems began to insinuate their patrilineal stances into Native communities, clearly placing the male above the female, that things drastically changed for women. It has only been in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century that women have been regaining their place as equal members in their communities. This has been demonstrated all across North America by the act of women taking back the drum, a metaphor for advocating and fighting for our historic right to play the big drums, and celebrate our cultures wherever, whenever and however we so choose. That is what the book We Do It This Way, in which I am a contributing member, is all about. It is a series of essays written by esteemed Aboriginal women who became trailblazers on behalf of the sisterhood. Moreover, at this time, women's big drums groups have become the NORM and not the exception, as evidenced by the amazing show of support from my American sisters, and the number of Youtube videos, Facebook pages of women's big drum groups. Unfortunately, you are aiding and abetting what is now a passe situation, and your University is being tagged as one of last bastions of this tired, incorrect idea that women have no right to an equal place in their cultures.


In July, I was a key-note speaker at the farewell dinner of Ontario's Lieutenant Governor. Part of my talk was about life in First Nations communities prior to European contact. I spoke about the influence of Aboriginal women; how women told the stories and created the songs. How they sang and drummed on their "female relative" to remember language, to teach children, to heal hearts, to honour nature, communities, notwithstanding both women and men. Men respected and honoured women in their role as keepers of the stories as told, in part, through the big drums. I told the audience that all drums, regardless of their size, are FEMALE for the simple and logical reason that they represent the heartbeat of Mother Earth, the Female Life-giver. For purposes of this letter to you, it is nonsensical for women to be denied access to a female relative. Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge gives naysayers fuel for opinions that are not only based on faulty logic but dishonours thousands of years of Indigenous living.


I dispute your claim that your university is the place for "open and constructive discussion." Your university is definitely NOT the place to discuss women's rights/violence against women, or any sort of discrimination, when you continue to sanction the abusers by allowing them to remain in the powwow, while the innocent are scuttled to the sidelines.  What is even sadder, Principal Brown, the same situation happened to Moonstone when we were invited to the 2004 University of Waterloo powwow. Upon arrival, the arena manager did his best to humiliate us, but he ended up looking like a fool, and Moonstone was the only drum to make the Waterloo 6.00 p.m. news! This is also another nail in the coffin of your hand drum theory - Waterloo/St. Paul's has known about Moonstone for ten years!  Clearly, nothing has changed in a decade, and has only been made worse this time because of your complicity in supporting violence against women by allowing the Chippewa Travellers and Cedar River big drums to remain in the powwow.


There is nothing in my Native culture that speaks to voice removal unless we are referring to the Royal Proclamation of 1763, The Indian Act of 1876, Residential Schools. Now, that is voice/culture removal...or the misplaced attempt to do so. Playing and singing at a drum, regardless of size, speaks to the joy that First Nations women and men had and have toward their world. If anyone is worried that his voice is being removed because women play and sing at a drum then I suggest therapy. Is the male ego so fragile that the male voice can disappear so easily? No woman should support the stupidity of this assertion and if there is, she has not learned her own history. I am proud of the sisters with whom I stand and I will defend our right with my voice, because it is not going to disappear!


In terms of the $550.00 fee, I request that you donate the money to Anselma House, 700 Heritage Drive, Waterloo, ON. It is a 45-bed facility serving women and children fleeing from abusive situations. Please advise me when that donation has been made.


The better part of valour, Principal Brown, is for you to take the lead and, (a) acknowledge that mistakes have been made on your part, (b) promise to acquaint yourself with the historical/traditional facts of Indigenous people and the drum, (c) inform the men’s big drum groups that their behaviour is unacceptable and they have been removed from the powwow. We will see you, in protest, at the gates of St. Paul's on September 27, 2014.





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ON WOMEN In Honour of all Women, past, present and future. Women and the Big Drum, among other topics.


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DICKSON MENTORING, TUTORING, AND HOMEWORK SERVICES Grades 8-12 and Post-Secondary. Kate Dickson's Special World. New Clients Welcome.


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Teya Peya Books, 2010, REVISED Edition now available, 2014 



Eds. April Lea Go Gorth, Kandi Maxwell-Powell\

Article: "Coming Back to the Drum"

Thoz Women Inc., Alturas, California, 2014

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 Shannon Thunderbird

Teya Peya Books, 1994


Article: "Noo Halidzoks"


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Barcelona, Spain, 2008




September 23, 2014
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©All contents on this website and all Teya Peya's Presentations, Shows, Songs, Stories, Workshops, Lectures & Keynotes are copyrighted. No material may be reproduced, modified, republished, transmitted or distributed in any way without Shannon Thunderbird's prior approval. All Rights Reserved. My site is as accurate as humanly possible and is subject to change if I find or I am in receipt of information or updates that are verifiable. If you do not agree with what is written on any of the pages I'd be glad to engage in a "civilized and informed" discussion, If that is not possible, I suggest you exit the site immediately.


Also, I very occasionally  have someone say to me that in order to be taken seriously I should remove my animated figures! The latest one being a smarmy, "Dear Elder I only have your best interests at heart," as if they should be speaking to an Elder with such disrespect, never mind a stranger in the first place. My animations are colourful and cheerful, and after forty years, if someone doesn't want to take me seriously, removing fun little animated graphics ain't gonna change that, Cheers.

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