“I think we’re opening doors and generations to come will have traditional musicians who can make a living at it,”
More than three decades ago, the drum group Northern Cree made its unlikely and accidental debut in 1982 on Idaho’s Nez Perce reservation. The 53-year-old Wood, a founding member, has seen the group grow from three members to nearly 60, and its music now reaches audiences from London’s Trafalgar Square to the isolated villages of northern Canada.
One of the brothers borrowed a drum from a local museum and they performed songs they learned from their father and uncles. When the arena director asked for the name of the group, they looked down at the drum, which read in faded letters, “Northern Cree.”
Wood credits the group’s success to the drumbeat, which speaks to everyone, regardless of their background, he said. “No matter where they come from, they’ve heard that song somewhere else before,” he said. “It was in the womb with their mother, and they can relate to it.”
Wood has seen the drum connect with people all over North America and beyond. During pow wow season, which runs from May to September, the group plays almost every weekend. As the group continues to gain momentum, Wood hopes the larger music industry is paying attention.
Wood believes the best part about Northern Cree is connecting with people.
“It’s a gift to be touching people we’ve never even met,” he said. “When you can help people feel better, it really is a source of healing. It’s hard to put this into words: We let our drum do the talking for us.”