Posted by: Sarah Lidsey | December 19, 2015

The Buffalo Drum

P1010817Sometimes events happen with complete synchronicity and Grace. I had a great experience of this in 2013 when I met with Osa, an artist and drum maker who lives for part of the year on Orcas Island, one of the San Juan islands just off the west coast of the United States. That year, when I visited to attend a teaching given by sound healer, Tom Kenyon, we chatted about her work as well as my recent travels in Siberia, Mongolia and Tibet, and a space opened for me to ask her if she could make me a drum. We parted with her agreement, and an understanding that there was no immediate rush, but that I would be back to pick it up within a year.

About nine months later I contacted Osa to see how my drum was progressing. She reported that she hadn’t started the actual making of it, but she assured me that its creation was in flow in the visioning stage, and that my timing would seamlessly fit in with its construction and completion. We discussed the approaching Gathering envisioned, enabled & organized by an amazing friend, Katherine, in Montana at which Elders and open-hearted people were to join together to generate understanding and global peace and harmony. We agreed that I would come to Orcas to pick up my new drum on the way there, and that I would stay for a day to visit before I made my way north.

P1020440And so I made my plans. I flew into Seattle, staying with friends there with whom I was to drive across to Montana a few days later. Leaving my luggage with them I took the bus to the ferry to make the crossing to Orcas Island. For anyone going to the San Juan Islands this ferry trip is a treat in itself. It can feel like you are moving through time as you cross these waters, chugging past the often mist-shrouded shores of small islands, being called to another reality by the gulls and seals, greeted by the cormorants sitting like sentinels at the dock as you arrive, all taking note of your passage.

I was staying on the east side of the island, and Osa and I were to meet during the afternoon to hang out and for her to hand over the drum. But she called as I arrived to say she had just a tiny bit more to complete, and so we agreed that we would meet later so that she had time to add finishing touches. I was relaxed about it all, enjoying my time, chatting with friends, and revisiting some of my favorite places on this most magical of islands. But I was leaving on the early ferry the next morning and so when Osa called again late in the day to say that the drum was taking longer than thought and could we now meet for early breakfast at the dock as the ferry was about to load, I was a little alarmed!! My drum wasn’t ready…I could only trust that all was going to work out fine!

As the clock ticked and boarding time approached Osa arrived!…She is an extraordinarily talented person and as she talked of my drum I realized that the creation of it had been a big task. It was a drum made in a traditional Siberian way and sung into existence under the light of the moon, its deerskin bathed in elixirs made from the morganite crystal that I had asked to be part of its make-up. The distillation of moonlight and crystal energy she had made, accompanied it together with a paddle to play it with.

And then as we finished discussing my drum she said that she had this other drum that had ‘spoken’ to her, making it plain that it wanted to travel, wanted to come with me too. “Would you take it to Montana for the Gathering?” She unwrapped it – an 18in Buffalo drum, its hide mottled and dark, some strands of hair still present, almost growing still on its surface, and an area where the shadow of a small buffalo form seemed to stand.

But how was I to get it back to her, I asked? She said that if it came back that would be fine; and if it stayed with me that would also be fine; and if it wanted to travel on that would be fine too… She ended, “You will know what it wants to do”…!!!  But I didn’t feel a connection to this drum, how was I to know?

As luck would have it I was going on to spend a couple of nights on Vancouver Island with friends with great shamanic experience. As I talked to Rick & Marie about the Buffalo drum and as Rick led me in an enquiry into my relationship with the drum and my acceptance of this invitation, he suddenly and surprisingly sounded the drum loudly through the room shocking me and bringing its sound purposely to the heart of my being, the vibration of it singing deeply through me. I ‘met’ the drum in that moment and could feel my alignment to its journey crystalize within me.

We were ready, my drums and I, and I headed back to Seattle feeling the significance of the meeting ahead and looking forward to the journey across Washington State and Idaho to Whitefish, Montana. It’s a long drive, but across beautiful passes and through breath-taking countryside, and my three companions and I loved every minute of it, arriving in time to settle in before the opening ceremony.

People gathered from many countries across the globe that day in Montana including master teachers and healers, elders from many different traditions – Chiefs from Native American tribes of the East Coast of the States, as well as the Chief of the Blackfoot Nation and his wife & partner Darnell, whose traditional lands included and went beyond this northern state of America. Mamos from the Arhuaca tribe from the Santa Marta range of the Sierra Nevada mountains of Columbia had traveled out of their Mountains & out of their country for the very first time to be there. One of the Council of thirteen indigenous Grandmothers came. Teachers and spiritual leaders from America, Australia, Europe, & Mexico were present. Spiritual warriors and activists had come to be part of this momentous event including a group from Germany, accompanied by a film crew, traveling the world planting trees in the name of Peace to highlight the possibilities and paths of peace in these times.

P1010828We sat around a sunken fire pit in those initial moments and opened the fire, and each one of us was invited to take a few moments to speak our name and where we were from. The power of the spoken word as we all came together in unity was outstanding. As the last of the nearly 80 people present spoke, the Chief of the Blackfoot Nation, Smokey Rides at the Door, spoke with great heart and with humor about the need for peace and harmony, and the journey home of the Buffalo, a movement needed for the return of the heart of humanity and for the honoring of all peoples and their ways. While he spoke the wind got up and the trees rustled in the strong breeze, eagles called as they flew overhead, and an amazing circular formation of clouds formed, like a ring, reminding us that we are all part of the One Great Hoop of life and its ability to cross-connect all tribes on earth with each other.

P1010823After the main leaders of this gathering had spoken – Katherine, on whose land this Gathering was held; the Columbian Mamos; Chief Dancing Thunder of the Susquehannock tribe; and Australian teacher, Qala – the Sacred Paint Gatherer of the Blackfeet, Jimmy, EhSukYah, walked to join us all in circle. He spoke passionately about the need for unity and about the Buffalo and the move to bring the Buffalo home to his people, what that would mean on a more than literal level, how it would bring forward the life force in his people again. He spoke of a huge meeting – one that had just happened and one that would happen in the month after our gathering – where native tribes from the USA & Canada were to meet to sign pacts in an inter-tribal alliance to restore the Buffalo to parts of the rocky mountains and great plains, to open the passage for them so that they could once more roam freely. My heart was pounding. Here right at the beginning of our 10 day journey together, in sacred ceremony, the rightful place of the Buffalo drum I carried with me had been announced to me.  The call had been given clearly to hand it to the Blackfoot Nation so that it could become part of the sacred ceremonies and played to help manifest the intentions spoken before us all.

The next day, in conversation with Dancing Thunder, I shared my feelings about the drum, recounting its journey to the Gathering, and I asked for his advice on how to pass it onwards and who to pass it on to. Dancing Thunder suggested that as the Sacred Paint Gatherer, an elder at the heart of the spiritual and ceremonial life of the tribe, the drum would serve to its fullest in the hands of EhSukYah.

P1010747And so I opened the conversation with EhSukYah and offered him the drum. He was delighted and also strangely unsurprised that he was to be this drum’s next custodian. He announced that we must formally transfer the drum in ceremony and that if I would like to join him we would take it to Chief Mountain, the sacred mountain of the Blackfoot Nation in the center of what is now Glacier National Park and perform the ceremony there at its feet. A few days later we left, no more than ten of us in a small convoy of cars, to a sacred place in a beautiful spot in the rolling high plains just below the Mountain. Our group included a master drummer, Strong Bear, healers from Mexico and Europe, and part of the German film crew shooting a docufilm with the PeaceTree people, and shamans from Montana, and of course, EhSukYah, together with his young sons.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-10-08 um 23.40.24As we sat above a grove of Aspen trees in a place where earlier that year he had taken part in a ceremony in support of the restoration of the buffalo, EhSukYah took out a blanket and laid sacred items on it and spoke prayers in his own language. He then dressed himself in full ceremonial headdress, and picked up the Buffalo drum and sang to the mountain. The song he sang on the rhythm of the drum was powerful and heartfelt. Then Strong Bear took up his drum, and in a rhythm so fast that there was no room for thought, he drummed us ‘into the mountain’.

I journeyed deeply on the sound of the drum into the spiritual plains of Chief mountain.  I was brought to a seated circle of Grandmothers weaving a blanket on which they were creating the forms of all the animals of the earth. As I joined the Twelve Grandmothers the threads of their blanket rolled into a ball made of these strands of creation in all their beautiful colors, and they held this ball out to me before placing it in my heart. It was a moment full of gratitude and joy for me, coupled with a solemn understanding that I was being entrusted with a responsibility, to take this gift out into the world for the benefit of all beings.

And then, all too soon, Strong Bear drummed us back into present time and space. My meeting with the Grandmothers was complete and too quickly, in a haze of otherworldliness, I walked with the group to honor the Buffalo at another sacred spot close by, where EhSukYah played the Buffalo drum again in a completion of our ceremony.

P1010778In a time honored way we then sat down together and shared a meal, feasting on a diverse range of food that we had each brought to complete our sacred time together. As we headed home the day was ebbing and the stillness of dusk settled round us like a cloak. Our convoy divided as we moved off. EhSukYah, his sons, the film crew and I traveled very slowly, savoring the palpable power of the land, and the silence accompanying the dying moments of the day, the full moon rising in the sky, and the extraordinary colors of the rocks as the sun slowly set. We sang out our gratitude as it went down, drumming and singing our way back along the road.

The Buffalo drum has completed this part of its journey and passed into the Blackfoot Tribe in the care of one of their esteemed elders, in order to follow its destiny.

For information about the movement to restore the Buffalo go to

To follow the PeaceTree people go to Their PeaceTree docufilm made at the Gathering in Montana was awarded 2nd place at the Berliner Stiftungswoke, April 2015

For information on Chief Dancing Thunder go to or




  1. I am so glad to receive this blog and hear of your sacred adventures. The beautiful intentions of the gatherers and the drumming and the Buffalo spirit are very moving. Nancy

  2. I’ll be around Chief Mountain in summer 2017 😉 Good Feelings and Love most beautiful Sarah.

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