Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

November 5, 2012

Beating the drum

TAHLEQUAH — Taking his elk-skin covered drum out of his Jeep, drummer Leslie Hannah feels the warmth of the skin with the palm of his hand.

“I bring [my drum] out to the car to keep it warm; I don’t want it to sound flat, so I heat it up in the car when we’re going to use it,” said Hannah, director of Cherokee Programs at Northeastern State University.

The 45-pound drum usually resides in his office in Seminary Hall. It was a gift to Hannah shortly after he came to Tahlequah to teach Cherokee language, Cherokee culture and English classes at Northeastern State University.

“I was at a conference in Seattle, and went to a powwow where a friend was the master of ceremonies. The arena director was detained, and my friend asked me to help them out,” Hannah said. “It’s easy, I thought; you make sure people get where they’re supposed to be and keep people out who aren’t supposed to be in there.”

When his friend asked what he wanted for filling in, Hannah – who had considered it a favor and didn’t expect pay – jokingly asked for the drum.

One day, a large UPS truck pulled up at his home and a big box was delivered. He was surprised to find the drum packed inside.

“My friend tracked me down and sent it to me,” he said. “It had a note that read, ‘Thanks for the help.’”

Attending stomp dances and powwows isn’t uncommon for Hannah and his family, but he hadn’t done much drumming.

“It’s meant to be played,” he told himself, after receiving it. “What am I going to do with this drum?”

Now he plays it with friends. Since he’s had the drum, it’s been played at numerous events on campus, from graduations and basketball games to the annual Symposium on the American Indian at NSU for the past three years.

He sees drumming as an educational tool as much as a social event.

“Native peoples in general have a unique way of seeing and understanding the world,” he said. “We believe we see the world differently than other cultures. Like gathering around the drum, we do it in a circle, not in rows like a marching band. Even in an open field, it’s an intimate setting, with concentric circles around the drum of people singing, listening and watching, and some dancing.”

And it’s a way to bring people together to fellowship, make new friends and meet old ones again, he said.

Drumming can be experienced most Wednesday nights on Beta Field or indoors at the University Center when the weather demands it. About six Native American faculty, students and friends get together around 6:30 p.m. for fellowship, singing and enjoying the evening.

“Six to eight people sit at [a drum this size], but we’ve had [as many as] 14 before,” Hannah said. “It has four rope handles.”

Since Jake Chanate died, there hadn’t been any drumming at NSU, Hannah said.

“His grandson, Chris Chanate, drums with us now,” he said. “The first time [Chris] drummed with us, he said it was ‘just like what grandpa used to do.’”

Other drummers include Kelly Anquoe, former student and member of the Native American Student Association; Pat Oyabi, a Kiowa; and student members Travis Wolfe, Jeff Little and Taylor Morris.

“The first 15 minutes we talk, see how everyone is, then somebody says, ‘Let’s do a song,’” Hannah said. “Then we stop and talk, then play some more. And the evening follows the same pattern.”

Two traditional Cherokee drums hang on the walls of office.

“The hand-held drum has its own category now,” said Hannah. “People have special times to do hand drums, and sometimes they have a hand drum contest at powwows.”

Drumming brings another aspect of Native culture back to the college.

“NSU is a Native service institution. It was originally Cherokee, this building particularly: it was the Cherokee Female Seminary. The Cherokees had a vision of education. And many indigenous cultures are so deeply ingrained here at NSU.”

One project he’s working on is an exchange between NSU and the Institute for American Indian Art in Santa Fe, N.M.

“Their students could study Cherokee culture and language here, and ours would study different aspects of art there,” Hannah said. “It would offer more opportunities for cultural understanding.”

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and Master’s of Science at NSU, Hannah moved to Norman to complete his Ph.D. in Native American Literature from the University of Oklahoma in 2000. After graduating, he taught at the University of Nevada at Reno and Louisiana State University before spending five years at Kansas State, where he became academic dean. He taught writing for three summers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Growing up in the Adair County community of Rock Springs, across the road from Bell, he attended stomp dances with his family. His mom liked to dance.

Once in a while, they would go to a powwow with friends, usually out of state, he said.


To see the complete version of this article, subscribe to the Daily Press e-edition by following the link below.

Click here to get the entire Tahlequah Daily Press delivered every day to your home or office.

Click here to get a free trial or to subscribe to the Tahlequah Daily Press electronic edition. It's the ENTIRE newspaper (without the paper) for your computer, iPad or e-reader.

Text Only
Local News
  • CN, UKB battle over trust land application

    Two Tahlequah-based tribes presented oral arguments Friday in a protracted fight over a land-in-trust application.

    Over the course of five hours, attorneys for the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Nation Entertainment and the Department of the Interior made their cases before Northern District Judge Gregory Frizzell in a hearing that was originally scheduled for February.


    July 25, 2014

  • ts-NSU-Main-1-a.jpg No NSU pool, for now

    NSU experiencing delays in fitness center construction

    Earlier this month, Northeastern State University announced it is experiencing delays in the renovation of its fitness center and pool.
    The facility was officially shuttered Sept. 17, 2012, and at the time, the projected completion date for renovation was this fall.

    July 25, 2014 3 Photos

  • jn-Suspect-1.jpg Officials: Images of suspects may help nab church burglars

    Cherokee County investigators hope surveillance footage captured around the Crescent Valley Baptist Church in Woodall helps lead to the suspects accused of breaking into the complex and setting fire to one building this week.
    According to Undersheriff Jason Chennault, cameras captured footage of two suspects on bicycles early Tuesday morning, July 22.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • svw-movie-night.jpg Local library hosts family movie night

    Nova Foreman and her two daughters were about to leave the Tahlequah Public Library Thursday, when they saw the Family Movie Night flyer.
    The three decided to stay and enjoy a movie they had not yet seen at the free, theater-like event.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • svw-Keys.jpg Grant to fund stepped-up Keys PE program

    Kair Ridenhour’s new office is filled with pedometers.
    Ridenhour officially started his new position as assistant elementary principal at Keys Public Schools on July 1.
    But his other role at the school – that of physical education project coordinator – prompted the influx of pedometers.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • jn cvbc fire.jpg Church catches fire after burglaries

    Authorities are looking for the person accused of breaking into the Crescent Valley Baptist Church two times this week and likely causing a fire that damaged the youth building early Wednesday morning.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • svw Humane photo.tif More volunteers needed to house strays, help with spay-and-neuter

    Furry friends may seem like the perfect addition to round out a family.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Marijuana, seeds lead to four arrests

    Four people were arrested on marijuana related charges early Wednesday morning after a traffic stop on South Muskogee Avenue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Sex offender found living in tent at river

    Cherokee County sheriff’s investigators arrested a convicted sex offender this week when they discovered he has been living in a tent along the river.

    July 24, 2014

  • ts-NSU-MAIN.jpg Fledgling RiverHawks arrive

    Over 200 incoming freshmen took part in orientation class at Northeastern State University

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo


Do you believe school administrators and college presidents in Oklahoma are paid too much?

Strongly agree.
Somewhat agree.
Somewhat disagree.
Strongly disagree.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp