Jorge Lewis (left in white jacket) listens to his drum being played at the Carihi 50th anniversary celebration.

The beat of the drum

Culture and diversity is celebrated at Carihi, so it was only fitting that it was a part of Carihi’s 50th anniversary celebration.

During the ceremony on April 21, the school was presented with a special drum that was handmade by Jorge Lewis, an accomplished First Nations drum maker.  The drum was played in a moving welcome ceremony before a large crowd of past and present Carihi students, teachers and staff who had come together to commemorate the school’s history.

“I was approached by [Nicolas Pisterzi] about the possibility of making a drum to present at the 50th anniversary celebration,” Lewis said.  “I shared with him that I thought that was an incredibly wonderful idea to include the First Nations cultural aspect of Carihi.  I thought it was a beautiful way to represent it in the school.”

Lewis was born in Nanaimo and is a part of the Snuneymuxw First Nation. He has been making drums for17 years and now teaches young people how to make drums.  But there is more to the teachings than just building a drum.

“I feel it is important to teach the traditional teachings for the care of the drum, for the respect for the drum, why we respect the drum, how we respect the drum and all of those things that fall into the tradition of making these drums.”

The 30-inch elk hide drum designed for the school features intricate artwork done by Lewis’ wife, Bettina.  The two fish in her design are fitting as the school’s mascot is the Tyee, but they also represent the balance people strive for in their lives.

“We had shared in our discussion around the creation of the design that [balance] was important in our culture,” Lewis explained.  “The drum has the balance of the male and female aspect of life.  One of the fish has eggs inside of it and the other has a sperm sack in it, so that balance between male and female is represented”.

The drum will be displayed in the school to be enjoyed by students for years to come.  Lewis has a hope for all those who will use it: “That [students] will be able to strike it a few times with the drumstick and that it might spur something cultural for anybody that experiences the drum.  It’ll give them something in their life.”

Being able to contribute to Carihi’s 50th anniversary with this lasting gift was a special opportunity for Lewis.

“I feel so humbled and honoured having been asked to do this for Carihi and for all the students that are here now and all the students in the future.”