Upper Island Women of Native Ancestry Society Drum Program

At the Upper Island Women of Native Ancestry Society (UIWONA) in Courtenay, staff provide programs and services to Aboriginal women, children and families to strengthen their Indigenous culture holistically through healing, revitalization and advocacy. Primarily offering programming for families of young children ages 0-6, with the exception of their bursary program which recognized grade 12 grads for their strength and determination to persevere. It was apparent that there was a population of youth missing out on the connections of culture and grounding themselves while going through important changes and milestones of their own.

drum_UIWNA.jpgRecently, UIWONA began a program funded by United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island to engage with families and children aged 10 to 18 to spend quality time in an Indigenous, culturally inspired environment that promotes new skills and healthy living. The program called Indigenous Middle Years - Drums, Bows and Ceremony Program, is successfully bringing together 20 participants to share important cultural teachings, provide connectedness and grounding in culture for youth. But when the COVID-19 crisis hit the facilitators knew they would need to adapt the program to abide by the social distancing mandate. Programs like this are more important now than ever before.

To ensure the students continue their participation despite the required physical distancing measures, UIWONA quickly shifted the programming to offer only the drumming option. They have sent out 10 drum kits to the first group of participants to make their drums at home; the second batch of 10 drums will soon be delivered to be assembled and painted. Sandy Johnson, a local artist has designed four different feather templates for participants to paint on their drums if they so choose. Drum bags are being made by staff to demonstrate the importance of love and care put into looking after the drums spirit and will be sent home filled with a second kit for each participant to make their drums striker. Later in July, UIWONA staff and program participants will have an outdoor, physically distant awakening ceremony for the drums with knowledge keepers and Elders sharing their songs with the youth.

Learn more about Upper Island Women of Native Ancestry visit their website,