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date: 31 March 2020

Powuniikan [pokhanii’kan]locked

  • Mary Riemer-Weller
  • , revised by Susan M. Taffe Reed
  •  and Glen Jacobs



Generic term for drums of the Munsee Indians of the Eastern Woodlands in North America; their relatives the Unami use the word puhënikàn. Their drums include the deerskin drum, water drum, hand drum, and powwow drum, all of which are played by one or more drummers each using one beater.

The deerskin drum, also called the skin drum or hide drum, is an idiophone made by folding a deer hide into a bundle; it appears in several forms. The atoh-xayii-powuniikan (Munsee: ‘deer skin drum’) is made from a single skin of the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), preferably a buck. The animal is skinned and its hide fleshed, a process of removing most of the muscle and fat. At this point the hide can be salted, dried, and stored until needed. To make the drum, the hide is soaked for several days in an alkaline solution, such as hardwood ash mixed with water, which opens the pores and helps break down the hair follicles. Next, the hide is laid over a fleshing beam and a scraper is used to remove all remaining muscle, fat, and membrane. Then the hide is turned over and scraped to remove the hair and several layers of epidermis, a process called graining. Finally, the hide is cleaned by soaking overnight in fast-moving water. The rawhide is then folded and bound into a packet approximately 43 cm square....

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