Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Native American Music

with Seven Generations of Stewards

Native American Music and Traditions

Typically celebrated on the second Monday in October, Indigenous Peoples’ Day occurs on Monday, October 12, 2020. Although we are not able to host our typical in-person community event this year, we still celebrate virtually with the support of the Seven Generations Of Stewards! This page offers a variety of resources available that can be accessed any time for students, families, educators and community members.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day provides a wonderful opportunity to create awareness of the over 500 nationally recognized Native American tribes in the United States. We recognize that the history of our nation is intertwined with indigenous communities and traditions. The Rockwell is located on Seneca land, and we strive to acknowledge the rich history of this region and the Haudenosaunee people.

Many tribes and cultures across the globe celebrate with music and dance, and traditionally the drum and rattle instruments are interwoven in Native American ceremonies and celebratory gatherings. This year’s celebration theme is music, and focuses on the drum and rattle instruments.

Native American Rattle: Art-on-the-Go Take Home Kit

The materials to create this project are available for free in The Museum Store starting October 9, 2020 – while supplies last.

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Native American Rattle Project Directions + Information

Did you know that drums and rattles are the most common instruments used in Native American music? Rattles have been used throughout the world to help keep rhythm during tribal dances and ceremonies. Native American rattles date back to historic times. They were the perfect accompaniment to Native American ceremonies, which often included dancing. The rhythm the rattle helps keep during the dance is unforgettable – something that resonates to the very soul, helping make the ceremony a spiritual experience.

The materials used to make a traditional shaker are taken from the three kingdoms – animal, mineral and plant. The animal kingdom is represented by the container or feather decorations used on the rattle. The mineral kingdom is represented by rocks used for sound or the paint used for decoration. The plant kingdom is represented by the container (if a gourd is used) or the wooden handle of the rattle.

Gourds and bone are frequently used for rattles. Gourd rattles are made from gourds that have been carefully dried, prepared, and decorated according to personal and/or tribal preference. Bone rattles are most commonly made of a section of a bone or horn that is cut to a desired size. They are filled with seeds or other objects to produce the desired sound. Turtle rattles are made from the shell of a turtle, with objects such as turtle bones or cherry pits placed inside. This instrument honors the turtle for its role in the creation of “Turtle Island,” a name for North America that is frequently used by Eastern Woodlands Native Peoples.

Take your rattle home, sit quietly alone or with friends and shake it! The music will help you clear your mind and open a doorway to a different emotional place.



Additional Resources for Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Story of the Drum: An Abenaki Legend

Strong Women’s Song, credited to Anishinabe kwewag and Zhoganosh kwewag

Rockwell Collection Connection: The Teacher by Ernest Martin HenningsE. Martin Hennings, The Teacher, 1925, oil on canvas, 15 1/2" x 19 1/4".

In the painting, an elder is teaching a child how to play the drum, and it is significant to notice the value in passing down music knowledge generationally, so that the traditions and art forms continue. The rhythm of the music unites us, and is connected to our bodies and to our beating hearts.

Smithsonian Learning Lab Collection: Native American Music and Musical Instruments

Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

Native Knowledge 360° (NK360°)

The Native Knowledge 360° resource provides new perspectives on Native American history and cultures. Most Americans have only been exposed to part of the story, as told from a single perspective through the lenses of popular media and textbooks. NK360° provides educational materials, virtual student programs, and teacher training that incorporate Native narratives, more comprehensive histories, and accurate information to enlighten and inform teaching and learning about Native America. NK360° challenges common assumptions about Native peoples and offers a view that includes not only the past but also the vibrancy of Native peoples and cultures today.

About Our Partners: Tom, Christine and Melissa Zajicek

Thomas Zajicek is an enrolled member of the Abenaki, Clan of the Hawk. He is a founding member and Vice President of the non-profit organization, Seven Generations of Stewards, Inc. Passionate about community, he organizes events including the Native Nations Festival and previously, the Big Flats Community Days. Along with his family and friends, he provides Native American education and community outreach to local schools, Veterans Administration (VA), YMCA, and others. Thomas is a Senior Engineer by day, and at night he loves drumming and spending time with family.

Christine Starr Zajicek is enrolled in the Abenaki, Clan of the Hawk. She is a founding and active board member of the non-profit, Seven Generations of Stewards, Inc. She participates in numerous community events including the Native Nations Festival and previously, the Big Flats Community Days. She is the driving force behind the Student Day of the Native Nations Festival. She spends much of her time outdoors tending her many gardens. Christine is a Montessori teacher and enjoys sharing her vast knowledge with students and adults alike.

Melissa Zajicek is also an enrolled member of the Abenaki, Clan of the Hawk. She is a founding member and Secretary of the non-profit, Seven Generations of Stewards, Inc. Melissa is a community herbalist and entrepreneur. She is a licensed attorney focusing in serving underrepresented populations, and is currently a stay at home mom to her newest Clan member. Melissa also participates in sharing Native American culture at many community events and online classes.


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