UNITY Drum: How it all began
In 1994 at the National UNITY Conference in Tampa Bay, Florida, Bea Shawanda, Odawa/Pottowottomi from Wikwemikong Manitoulin Island, Ontario and her son Niso presented UNITY with a drum. A great gift from our north country, it was said that this drum is for everyone. All who can and want to sing were invited to have a seat at this drum. “Wherever it may be, the UNITY Drum is considered as an open drum, no matter what tribe or gender. All tribes have their own way and protocols and we have to respect each and everyone,” said Junior Sierra, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and a UNITY drum keeper.
At the 1994 National UNITY conference a drum keeper was selected by the singers. Bo Goins, Lumbee of North Carolina was selected as the first drum keeper. He would hold this position from 1994 to 1997. In 1998, Michael Killer, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, was selected a new drum keeper. He would keep the drum from 1998-2004.
In 2005, UNITY Founder J.R. Cook asked Junior Sierra, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, to keep the drum. He also asked Michael Killer to serve as the lead singer. These two gentlemen, both UNITY alumni, have served UNITY as the Lead Singer and Keeper from 2005 to the present.
If you’re a singer, please bring your drum stick to the national conference and be a part of the UNITY Drum!
In 2015, a UNITY song was composed by an Oklahoma singer. It was shared widely for the first time at the 2015 National UNITY Conference. You may listen to it here.