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We Belong to the Drum

by (author) Sandra Lamouche

illustrated by Azby Whitecalf

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
May 2023
Native Canadian, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Music
Indigenous characters
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    May 2023
    List Price

Library Ordering Options


The drum represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth. We all belong to the earth and we all belong to the drum.

Nikosis grew up going to powwows with his family, happily immersed in music, dance and the sounds of the drum. But when he starts going to daycare, he doesn’t feel like he belongs. Nikosis cries every time his mother leaves him in the unfamiliar environment until, one day, she and the teachers use drums to help Nikosis find connection and comfort.

Inspired by her son’s experience—and her family's love of powwow music and dance—Indigenous educator and champion hoop dancer Sandra Lamouche shares this uplifting true story of the transformative effects of culturally safe and inclusive early childhood education.

About the authors

Sandra Lamouche is a Nehiyaw Iskwew (Cree woman) from the Bigstone Cree Nation in northern Alberta. She is a wife, mother of two boys with braids, champion women’s hoop dancer, award-winning educator and two-time TEDx speaker. She has a bachelor of arts in Native American studies and is currently completing a thesis on Indigenous dance as a determinant of well-being. Sandra and her family live in Blackfoot Territory (Treaty 7), the heart of powwow country in southern Alberta.

Sandra Lamouche's profile page

Azby Whitecalf (they/them/theirs) is a Plains Cree character designer and illustrator based out of North Battleford, Saskatchewan in Treaty 6 Territory. A graduate of the Alberta University of the Arts, they hold a Bachelor Degree in Visual Communication (Character Design). Their artistic practice focuses on fun and exciting stories with memorable and unique characters, and they enjoy working with bright colours, strong contrast, and fun shapes. Azby is passionate about creating accurate and positive representation of Indigenous Peoples and cultures, as well as exploring how to portray Indigenous Peoples in a way that celebrates multidimensional identities.

Azby Whitecalf's profile page


  • Winner, Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL) Bell Picture Book Awards for Early Literacy - Sing
  • Commended, Toronto Public Library (TPL) Ready for Reading First and Best List
  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens, starred selection

Editorial Reviews

“A delightful picture book…Tells a classic family story of a child’s introduction to the world outside of their family and the growing pains involved. Lamouche sweetly emphasizes the importance of family and culture, particularly for Indigenous families.”

CM: Canadian Review of Materials

“This title exemplifies the importance of inclusion and belonging and offers a sense of community, whether it be with family, at cultural events or at daycare. The illustrations are bright, vivid, and joyful and they serve as a wonderful supplement to the text. Recommended for school, home and public libraries.”

Canadian Children's Book Centre (CCBC) Canadian Children’s Book News

“Flowing lines and colorful details to enliven this simple yet emotionally resonant story. ­Offering an appreciative glimpse of Cree culture and traditions, and a gentle message of ­inclusion, this is a welcome addition to the ‘first day of school’ shelves in school and public ­libraries.”

School Library Journal

“Bold watercolor illustrations clearly capture Nikosis’s many moods and energy of the drum…Recommended.”

Children's Literature Comprehensive Database (CLCD)

“This upbeat story, accompanied by exuberant watercolor illustrations, demonstrates the power of sharing and appreciating varying cultures.”