Big drums

A friend on Facebook alerted me to an item:



On July 21, 2014, the Thunderbird Women’s Big Drum Group and their drum Moonstone, were invited to participate in a powwow hosted by St. Paul’s University College, University of Waterloo on September 27, 2014. The participation would take the form of sitting in the main arbour with the men’s big drum groups. The invitation was subsequently rescinded by the University, when at a secret meeting held on August 26, 2014, witnesses reported that if Coast Tsimshian Elder, Shannon Thunderbird, keeper of Moonstone came to the powwow she would be “forcibly removed or worse.” The threat was issued by Mark Lavallee, Chippewa Traveller’s Men’s Big Drum. Twenty-four hours earlier, when Elder Thunderbird requested to come to the meeting to speak for herself and her drum, she was ordered by a University administrator to stay away.

Three days prior to the secret meeting, Ms. Tamie Coleman, University of Waterloo Graduate Student, was called at her home and threatened, that if she attended the secret meeting, she would never walk again. This threat was issued by Franklin Van Woudenberg, Cedar River Men’s Big Drum. Subsequent to the meeting, another member of the Thunderbird Women’s Big Drum Group, Ms Pauline Moon was threatened with eviction from Aboriginal housing by the sister of Mark Lavallee. As a witness in attendance at the secret meeting, Ms Moon was also told, by Mark Lavelle, that, “If I was a Cree, I’d smash you in the face.” All of these threats have been reported to the Waterloo police.

After nearly three weeks of protests, via emails and letters from both Canada and the United States, Principal Graham Brown, St. Paul’s University College, and Dr. Diana Parry, Special Advisor to the President on Women’s issues and Gender Issues continue to sanction violence towards Aboriginal women by permitting the abusive men’s big drums to remain in the powwow, while banning an innocent women’s big drum group. Furthermore, the University is in Haudenosaunne territory, yet it was only unsanctioned Anishinaabe Elders who decided that Elder Thunderbird and Moonstone were unsuitable based on faulty information and teachings. Moreover, the so-called Elders who made the decision were not the University’s Elders of Record, they were not invited, nor were any Haudenosaunne Elders consulted.

Despite our efforts to right this grievous wrong, the Thunderbird Women’s Big Drum Group and all interested people, have no choice but to protest at the gates of St. Paul’s University College on September 27, 2014, 11AM (10AM for set up). It is my understanding that protesters will be coming from as far away as Ottawa.

Shannon Thunderbird, M.A. Coast Tsimshian First Nations Elder E: URL:



**Even if your teachings don’t align with women at the big drum, you can support us in stopping violence against women. Violence is violence and it has to stop!**

#VAW #INM #IdlenNoMore

Tsimshian Artist, Singer, Motivational Speaker on Native Spiritualism, Culture and Social Issues, Storyteller.


  1. says

    This sounds lovely. If I were local, I’d certainly go.

    It would be cool if you’d highlight more events this way. I think it could help out. For instance, the call to converge on Ferguson, MO, Oct. 10 – 13.

  2. says

    My university has pow-wows, too. We also have a choir that sings Handel’s Messiah. I don’t complain about either…although I have complained when our former choir director did nothing but Christian religious music, at every single goddamned concert.

    It’s OK for religious groups to be represented. I don’t think there’s any risk that Indian groups will take over and exclude all other expressions of belief.

  3. bryanfeir says

    As someone who went to the University of Waterloo…

    St. Paul’s College is one of the four different religious colleges affiliated with the University. It was started by the United Church of Canada, but is pretty much independent now, and a lot of the vaguely spiritual but not necessarily explicitly goddy tended to go on there. (The other three are St. Jerome’s, associated with the Roman Catholic Church; Renison, with the Anglican Church; and Conrad Grebel, with the Mennonites. Yes, the Mennonites have their own college: there are a LOT of them in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Note also that Kitchener used to be called Berlin prior to 1917…)

    It’s also worth noting that Waterloo, as one of the major Engineering schools in Canada, unfortunately has also long had one of the most lopsided gender balances of any Canadian university. At least the most blatant parts of the ‘dudebro culture’ were being stamped out while I was there in the late 1980s.

    Unfortunately, the 1980s were also a time when the University of Waterloo was slowly being transformed from a place of education to an industry feeder, with the active assistance of the President at the time.

  4. Sheena Cardinal says

    Okay, as part of the native community and someone who was at this meeting, I must comment…
    First of all, this meeting was not “secret”. I received an invitation as did many in the community. It was for a range of topics concerning this pow wow, not just the women’s big drum. Anyone in the community could volunteer to be on the pow wow committee.

    Secondly, Pauline Moon is a known liar and likes to lord her unsubstantiated “teachings” over everyone – except people in positions of leadership. She sucks up to those people. She’s good at playing an innocent victim when influential people are in the room, and is a bully when those people are not. There are many people in the community who do not like her very much.

    Thirdly, Shannon Thunderbird is a drama queen and this entire thing is not about violence against women. Not even close. That’s just a front for the real reason: She’s butthurt because she didn’t get her way. This has happened before. If things don’t go the way she prescribes them, she kicks up a tantrum over it, and will grasp for any straw labelled “social injustice” to use as an excuse to deflect from the truth. She is a self-proclaimed elder (this is something you do NOT do in the native comminuty; this would be like white people proclaiming themselves a priest). On her website, she has herself listed on a page of influential native women. She has big delusions of grandeur. She should speak only for herself and her West Coast tribe, yet she uses her self-imposed position of power to shoehorn her way into other communities and tell them what they should do and how they should think. By the way, no threats were ever issued by either of the men named at that meeting. I know them personally, and they are good people who have wives and daughters all who are welcome around their drums. Shannon is just as bad as a colonialist and she doesn’t even realize it.

    This whole thing is about the ego of a woman and her lap dog followers and the only real tragedy here is it has caused a divide in the community that may not be fixable.

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