Red Eagle Drumming [UPDATED]

Published 9:52am Thursday, August 9, 2012 Updated 9:52am Thursday, August 9, 2012

Some women sew or knit beautiful clothes, blankets, mittens and more. Doris Issendorf, Henning, “sews” or weaves beautiful drums that can last an entire lifetime. Drumming can have a profound effect on one’s emotional and spiritual well-being.

Doris makes a variety of drums using many different hides: deer, elk, buffalo, moose, cow, horse, goat and bear. Hides are light or dark colors and some are thin or thick, making the sound of the drum head high or low. Many people, young or old, drum together to ease their stress or improve a wide range of physical disabilities.

“For 10 years I attended a woman’s retreat at Maplelag resort near Calloway. It was there that I learned the magic of the drum and drumming with a group. When a person drums in a circle with a group amazing things happen,” Doris shared. “Each person starts with their own beat and as the session continues everyone falls into the same rhythm. In a circle everyone is equal.”

Drumming secured Doris during a challenging experience. “Life can really throw you some curve balls and I caught one when we discovered my husband, Izzy, had cancer. My constant communication with God during those 2 years of Izzy’s illness and death in 2002 catapulted me to new dimensions on my spiritual path. All through it drumming was a constant highlight, a sure way to climb above or get relief from the fears, dread and uncertainty of serious illness. After he died, the drums called louder and with more persistence.”

Creating drums for over 15 years, Doris sells them on a website ( plus volunteers at area nursing homes, Catholic Charities (troubled teens), creates drum making workshops and has a drum circle at her home. “I continue to be amazed at the attendance. Women are starved for the circle. It’s an opportunity to share, to pray, to listen to be heard and to learn,” she explained.

Making drums takes time. Doris collects deer hides from local hunters. First the hides are fleshed (scraping off the hair) and dried to make the rawhide. Round frames are purchased and her friend, Jerry, who makes 8-sided frames and drum stands with MN cedar. When the rawhide is dried, she begins by measuring and cutting the ‘drum head,’ then drills holes for lace which is cut from the same hide. After soaking for at least 3 hours Doris laces the drum. It takes about 3 days to dry.

Her first voluntary experience was at Crest View Community in the Cities in 2009. Doris loaned 65 drums and sticks to her friend, Marcia, at her church. The CEO of Crest View asked if the residents could participate. Drumming was introduced in the assisted living area and on the Dementia/Alzheimer Wing. Marcia shared: “The elders in the assisted living area are a hoot! They come, they drum and they tell me it’s too loud as they CONTINUE to drum. Some laugh. Some just sit quietly and softly drum… almost to themselves.

“There was a lady that liked to sit and snooze in the sunshine. Her wheelchair was close to our circle… with limited movement and speaking ability we realized one day that she was truly enjoying our drumming experience. We asked her if she would like to drum on a regular basis and she smiled and nodded ‘yes.’ Now she is there waiting for me to arrive every time. She plays a small drum for most of the session. She smiles a lot and even winks at me when she does something really loud!

“At the first session another gentlemen was strapped to his chair, leaning back and sleeping with his mouth open and his tongue out. As months passed he began to come around. Now he is sitting in the room waiting for me. When I greet him his eyes brighten and his smile almost makes me cry inside. He now drums for at least 45 minutes. We banter back and forth and if I walk by him, he’ll beat my drum instead of his which makes him laugh.”

Again, Doris loaned drums to Catholic Charities in Fergus Falls, a place that helps troubled teens. “When I visited with the teens after they had drummed several times they said that they really liked the sessions and felt much more relaxed. Many have never been able to let their guard down, so relaxation is something new for them,” she explained.

Doris has been inspired by her mother who has Alzheimers. Her mom continues to be funny, not angry. While she doesn’t know her family, her mother wheels patients around often. Her nurses called her their ‘Social Butterfly.’ Doris smiled, “I never imagined I’d have the chance to give back for the care given to my mother. I am honored and blessed to be a part of this awakening.”

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