Men seated around a traditional drum

Saagajiwe: Our Grandfather Drum

Saagajiwe is our Grandfather Drum that walks with Seven Generations Education Institute. The drum lives in our Circle Room at our Fort Frances campus and serves as a supportive helper for our institute, students and staff who wish to sit and offer asemaa (tobacco).

How our Saagajiwe came to be

In 2007, Seven Generations Education Institute’s Indigenous Wellness and Addictions Program (IWAP) students asked if the organization had a Grandfather drum they could sit with during difficult times. 

Seven Generations Education Institute then held meetings with territory drum keepers to discuss if the organization was ready to walk with a drum. As per tradition, asemaa (tobacco) was provided and a jiisakaan (shaking tent) ceremony was held on July 31, 2007 and the construction, naming, and accompanying sacred items were determined. 

SGEI held a birthing ceremony on April 1, 2010, SGEI’s 25th anniversary, next to Rainy Lake.

The meaning

Saagajiwe is the name given to our Grandfather Drum. In Anishinaabemowin, Saagajiwe refers to the rays of light as the sun breaks the horizon during sunrise which leads the Gimishoomisinaan Giizis (Grandfather Sun) across the sky each day.

The creation

The drum colours, as determined through ceremony, are black, red, blue and green. Saagajiwe is accompanied by four staffs, each a different colour relating to the four directions; yellow (East), green (South), red (West), and white (north).

The drum is not meant to touch the earth. To separate Saagajiwe from the earth beneath it, the drum rests on cedar bows and a makwa (bear). The makwa is laid facing East, while Saagajiwe’s navel—the SGEI logo—faces Southeast between the green and yellow staffs.

A song accompanies Saagajiwe that shares that the spirits are watching over us from the sky. This song was shared by the late Tommy White.

Saagajiwe walks with SGEI

No two drums are the same, each has its own distinctive structure, spirit, and life based on both the culture in which it was made and the hands of the one who made it. The drum is not just a music-maker, but a voice for the soul within the music. 

Our drum is accompanied by the Grandmother Staff, Gookomisinaan, and other sacred items that serve as supportive helpers for our institute, students and staff who wish to sit and offer asemaa (tobacco).