Drums can come from a variety of sources. Some are handed down in family; others are donated to a drum group. Older drums are made of deer, elk, or horse hides, but contemporary bass drums can be purchased or renovated, and even blessed, just as are the older drums.
The drum is more than just a musical instrument to those who own and play it; it has its own life. Some drum groups have gone through ceremonies and had their drums blessed and named. The drum is regarded as a man with its own powerful spirit. Gifts are made to the drum and some drums have their own sacred medicine pipes. In some traditions, the drum symbolizes the heart; in others, the powerful medicine of thunder.
Regardless of the tradition, the drum must always be treated with respect as a sacred object or entity. Nothing is ever placed on the drum, nor does anyone ever reach across it. Many drums even have their own songs, which are frequently sung as a warm-up at the beginning of the pow wow/celebration.
The beat of the drum is like a heartbeat, starting slowly and then beating more quickly as the singers get further into the song. The drum sticks connect the singers to the power of the drum as they sing.