The Drummers

Gilbert Cheechoo, lead singer – Earl Danyluk – Earl Danyluk Jr.

In the 70s as younger men they went to the pow wows and gatherings and received teachings from the Elders and the people. Those teachings prompted them to start singing in 1974.

In 1984, they were known as the Otterhead Singers. They reunited a few weeks ago as the James Bay Singers at the Echoes Of A Proud Nation Pow Wow in Kahnawake, attended by over 20,000 people. They are singing with their sons now, who weren’t even born when they started. The last time they did the pow wow trail was back in ’84.

Singing original songs and some songs which the Pigeon Lake Singers from Alberta graciously shared with them, they make your neck shiver with their power as do most drum groups. Earl Danyluk, one of the James Bay Singers, notes that native spirituality is “very open, open-minded, free spirit—everyone is treated equally with equal respect.”

He said the drum is very spiritually connected to the Earth. “Creation, that’s where we get our spiritual power from. It keeps us together. The drum represents the centre of life. It connects us spiritually. When it’s played every creature hears it. There is an awakening,” said Danyluk.

“I express my pleasure of sharing our culture with them, and try to make them understand this is ours and was ours before even they put a foot in North America. And we’re reviving it through these kinds of celebrations of our culture, celebration of our song, our dance and we share this with everyone, of all colours. And not to lie offended when we express our proudness about this. We are very proud of what is ours.”

He said the pow wow was an important way to pass on culture to future generations. “The culture is being passed on, it gets stronger. That’s the way our culture, our traditions will survive, through this type of gathering.”

The James Bay Singers include Gilbert Cheechoo and Gilbert Jr., Charlie Keyuke, Earl Danyluk and Earl Jr. and Jimmy Dick. Vern Cheechoo and Kandy Kapshishit couldn’t make it to the pow wow.