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To The Beat Of Their Own Drum

Elliot Johnson, Ganebik Johnson and Trysten Mustache have been playing the drums since they were toddlers.

Now in middle and high school, the boys formed a drum group. They call themselves the Wigwam Juniors.

“So far we’re having drum practice a couple times a week,” Trysten says. “We’re going to be doing pow-wows all summer long.”

The drum is an integral part of their Ojibwe heritage. The songs they sing are hundreds of years old.

That’s why their grandfather, John Johnson, encourages the music.

“When these guys are my age,” he says, “maybe they’ll be teaching their grandsons our culture and they’ll be learning these songs.”

In a courtyard outside the Lac du Flambeau tribal office, the ensemble shares their music and their reasons for playing the drum.

This story is part of WXPR's series Native Voices: Audio Portraits of the Anishinaabe.

The Northwoods is home to a number of Ojibwe and Potawatomi tribes, but stories from the area’s indigenous people – the Anishinaabe – often go untold. 

Native Voices is an effort to share those stories, told by the people who live them. Each episode uses sound to paint a portrait of different indigenous people, casting light on local tribes’ history, culture and customs.

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Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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