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Chantal Chagnon is a drummer and educator in the Calgary area. Thirty of her handmade drums were stolen from her van. (Submitted by Chantal Chagnon)

Chantal Chagnon uses drumming to help students and patients heal, learn and forgive.

And she’s willing to direct that same compassion to whoever stole the 30 drums she uses to help others.

"They’re such an essential part of connecting community … healing and of forgiveness and that path towards truth and reconciliation," the Calgary-based Cree Ojibwe Metis musician and educator said Thursday.

"If they can find a place to just drop them off or even just leave an anonymous tip of where they’re located, just to bring them home, that would be amazing."

On Tuesday, between 1 and 5 a.m., someone broke into Chagnon’s van, which was parked outside her home business, Cree8, on the well-lit Dalhart Road in northwest Calgary. Chantal Chagnon kept most of her drums in her van because they were too heavy to bring inside after every seminar. (Chantal Chagnon) The drums were in a large black duffel bag, which she used to move the instruments between schools and medical centres for her seminars. She thinks the thieves thought the bag contained hockey gear or something worth more money.

They left other drums that were more visible, she said. The thieves also took a ceremonial knife.

She noticed them missing later that morning when she went outside to take the van to work at a school. She called the police and filed a report. Since then, she’s been alerting pawn shops and watching classified advertising websites. Musician Chantal Chagnon lends her drums to students and patients so they can play. (Chantal Chagnon) "I’ve been working on them for at least the last decade, if not more. The oldest drum in the bag is about 12 years old," she told the Calgary Eyeopener . "And one drum can take anywhere between an hour and eight or nine hours to make."

Each is made to be unique, created from either deer, elk, moose or buffalo rawhide, to represent the directions of a medicine wheel. They’re hand woven with rawhide lacing in the back, so they last a long time.

"But because each of them is unique and I put my own heart and soul into each," Chagnon said, "you can’t really pin down what they look like because they all look different." ‘Hardest part’

Chagnon has roots in Muskeg Lake Cree Nation but now lives and works in Calgary. She goes into Calgary schools to run educational seminars with students, teaching traditional singing, drumming and storytelling. Chantal Chagnon made all of her missing drums by hand. Each takes between one and nine hours to make. (Chantal Chagnon) She’s also used similar teachings to help businesses and community groups involved with people who, for example, have disabilities or illnesses like cancer or Parkinson’s.

"I think that’s the hardest part. When you go into schools and you’re sharing with kids and just to see how they light up when you open the bag full of drums. They’re like, ‘we actually get to play a drum?’" she said.

"Some kids are so quiet. A drum in their hand and they start opening up and they start singing — and teachers are in tears because they’ve never seen some kids so engaged before.

"It’s breathtaking to see such a simple ceremonial and spiritual object can cause so much joy and so much healing."

Listen to Chantal Chagnon describe how drumming helps her connect with her students:

Chagnon says she will continue her workshops without the drums, and in the meantime will set to work making new ones.Anyone with […]

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