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
  • ts honor flight 1.tif Flight of honor

    World War II veteran Charles Harra flew missions for the Army Air Corps, and if you ask him which flight was his most memorable, he’ll say it was his 35th mission.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Man charged after leading authorities on wild chase

    Prosecutors have formally charged a man who allegedly led authorities on a wild high-speed pursuit across Cherokee County in late March.

    April 17, 2014

  • Sex offender bonds out after failing to register

    A Cherokee County man is out on bond after being arrested last week for failing to register as a sex offender.

    April 17, 2014

  • jn radiator shop.jpg ‘Greenbelt’ progressing

    Crews this week began to demolish an abandoned radiator shop at the corner of South Street and Guinn Avenue.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • ts slut walk.tif SlutWalk shines spotlight on crime

    “Two, four, six, eight, stop the violence, stop the rape; slut, slut, ho, ho, yes means yes and no means no!”
    This was the battle cry across the campus of Northeastern State University, as the student branch of the American Association of University Women held its third annual SlutWalk Wednesday.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • SR-TonsOffTahl-A.jpg Tribes, city, NSU launch Tons Off Tahlequah campaign

    When studies are conducted about whether Americans are living healthy lifestyles, Oklahoma often ranks poorly among the states.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • ts-Trail-show-1.jpg Jackson takes prize

    Cherokee Heritage Center Museum Curator Mickel Yantz kicked off his 10th anniversary at the venue with the opening of the 43rd annual Trail of Tears Art Show this past Friday.
    “The Trail of Tears show was my first exhibit opening when I arrived 10 years ago,” said Yantz. “Since that time, the show has changed so dramatically; we’ve added so many new artists, and the art work has excelled over time. It’s like Christmas for me.”
    Yantz said he was exceptionally pleased with the opening reception.
    “We had a fantastic turnout,” said Yantz. “We had a lot of fun and sold some artwork, which is great for opening night.”
    The exhibit is on display at the Cherokee Heritage Center through May 26. This year’s show features 130 pieces of art spanning eight different categories, including basketry, graphics, jewelry, miniature, painting, pottery and sculpture.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • churchguy.jpg Some NSU students find Church of Monett offensive

    They turn heads every time they show up on campus, and some students at Northeastern State University are offended by their presence.
    The Church of Monett, Mo., has made periodic trips to Tahlequah to stage quiet demonstrations in public campus spaces in recent years. They carry signs that read, “Wives, Obey your Husbands,”; “To be Married to the divorced is Adultery”; and “Don’t be deceived: fornicators homosexuals idolaters adulterers thieves drunkards - shall not inherit God’s Kingdom.”

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Teen sent to hospital after being struck by tractor-trailer

    An 18-year-old Tahlequah man was struck by a tractor-trailer early Tuesday morning on the State Highway 51 bypass near Mimosa Lane.
    Tahlequah Police Capt. Tom Jones said officers responded to the scene at about 5:40 a.m., when Sage Sohns was found injured and lying in the road. A medical helicopter responded to the scene to transport Sohns to a Tulsa hospital, where he was being treated for a closed-head injury, police said.

    April 16, 2014

  • TPS board hears architect presentations for cafeteria

    Members of the Tahlequah Public Schools Board of Education heard from four architectural firms seeking a contract for construction at Cherokee Elementary School.
    TPS plans to build a cafeteria-auditorium and a music room with a stage, which may also serve as a safe room during storms.

    April 16, 2014


What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dead at 87 Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Beau Biden Plans 2016 Run for Del. Governor Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later Sister of Slain MIT Officer Reflects on Bombing