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  • Writer's pictureNative West Trading Co

Richard Flittie Drum Maker at Native West Trading

WE are so proud of every single artist that we feature in our store and want to highlight in greater detail who these amazing people are.

Meet Richard Flittie

Richard Flittie

From Richard

I took a drum making workshop in 2009 in Mt Shasta, CA, from a friend who has been making drums for 20 years. It was then I decided this is what I wanted to do in my retirement. My teacher bent over backwards to provide me with all the information I would need to get started. Including all her contacts and the places I could get my supplies. It has turned into a passion and I'm always working on some sort of project. Since then I have made, and taught others to make, nearly 1,000 drums.

Drums are a universal instrument used by peoples and cultures all around the world. My inspiration for making drums comes from Native American traditions and culture. On my Mothers side of my family I am part Oglala Lakota, Sioux. My Great Grandmother came to The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in SD during the 1870's when all of the last free roaming bands of Indians were ordered to report and register or be considered hostile and hunted down and killed. I have had relations living there ever since. And since I started making drums I am starting to connect with relatives that I didn't know I even had. The Creator has Blessed me with a new direction in my life and an ever expanding Native connection. I am humbled every day by the Blessings I receive in this world, and it is my desire to get good drums in the hands of as many people as I can so they can also enjoy the calming, healing and joy that comes from playing drums. I would be honored to help anyone who wants to add a drum to their future.

MITAKUYE OYASIN (We are all related)

Some Q&A for Richard

How long have you been making drums? I took a drum making workshop in Mt Shasta, CA in the fall of 2009 along with my wife and a friend. I basically had gone at their invitation and didn't really have any expectations other than to come away with a drum to use for singing prayer songs with friends and relatives in Sweat Lodges. I had just a few months earlier, started a major transition in my life. Some of my old habits just weren't serving me any more and I started going to Sweat Lodge ceremonies and being with people who were living that kind of spiritual life. So, when I went to the workshop and got inside the house and was in the presence of all the drums that were there, it just tweaked something in me and I realized that drum making would be a perfect fit for me as something to do for this next phase in my life. I told our drum making teacher what I was feeling and she went out of her way to not only teach me how to make a drum, but also gave me pages of information on where to get all the supplies I would need and offered her availability if I ever had any questions. That was 8 1/2 years ago and it has become my life.

What makes your drums different than others?

First of all, all of my drums are made in a small personal ceremony. I start by assembling together all the parts that go into making the drum on the work table. Next, I Sage myself, the work area and all the parts that go into the drum. Then I ask the Spirits from the 4 directions to bring their power and good medicine into the drum. Then I say a prayer and give a tobacco offering to the Spirits and thank them for coming. Then I assemble the drum.

It is hard to describe how my drums are different from others because they are very much like many drums I have seen. For the most part, I only make hand drums in one style. Although I do some custom orders, I try and keep it simple and stick to the basics. Fancy is fine if you're looking for something to show off but all I am looking for is a well made, good sounding drum that can be used for anything from social singing, meditation, healing, or used in ceremony. After 8 1/2 years of making drums, sometimes as many as five in a day if I have a deadline for a show etc. I have gotten used to learning through all my senses when I am lacing a drum together. I am always looking for new insights.

If you had to explain to people that know nothing of your culture and drumming, what would you say to help them understand how the sound of the drum mimics the heartbeat of earth?

I would say that the first thing we all experience even before we actually come out and begin our earth walk is the sound of the heartbeat inside our Mother's womb. Thump thump, thump thump, thump thump. This is transferred and translated into all of us being the children of our Earth Mother and we use the drum to replicate the sound of our birth mothers as we sing and dance in prayer and gratitude upon the flesh of Mother Earth.

Why sell at Native West Trading? I have two different stores in Switzerland and two in northern CA that carry my drums and have drums in at least a dozen different countries, that I know of. But with my returning to my roots, the one thing I didn't have was a place on my ancestors homeland, the tribe I am an enrolled member of, to carry my drums. I ran across Native West and Jennifer on Facebook.

Interior, SD was one of the close towns on the Rez where my Great Grandparents cattle ranch was located. I worked there as a ranch hand in the summer 1959-60 and went to Interior all the time for supplies and mail etc. So when I saw the store was in Interior I took a chance and reached out to Jennifer with the proposal to try my drums and the rest is history.

Thanks Jennifer for making a dream happen. When my drums made it back home to the Rez it was almost like another level of verification for me.

Native West Trading want to thank Richard for allowing us to highlight and sell his amazing drums!

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