Santa Fe Region Client ProfileEagle Drums
Born in Albuquerque and raised on the Cochiti Pueblo reservation, Gilbert “Eagle” Herrera has 35 years of drum making experience. At 45, the fourth generation drum maker learned the art process from his father, Redbird.
When his father Redbird decided it was time to stop making drums, Eagle was determined to start creating his own style of drums while also continuing the traditional drum maker style that has been in the family for years.
Eagle carefully selects Aspen trees from the Jemez Mountains above 9,000 feet, which enables him to create traditional drums in the Pueblo of Cochiti. In the Native American traditions, the drum is a necessity as set forth by ancestors; many traditional cultural events engage the message of drums and drummers. Each drum is hand-crafted. The art of drum making takes time. They are created for traditional use and also for the tourists who tend to purchase the drums for bragging rights back home. Other Pueblos which do not create their own drums use Cochiti Pueblo’s renowned drums in pueblo ceremonies or as a gift for a loved one. Eagle stresses that his artwork is part of him. The creation allows him to leave the urban life to spend time with the ancestors and animals that he dearly loves.
Eagle’s strong beliefs regarding his heritage, tradition and sensitivity to the tradition carried on by the elders of the tribe sometimes conflicts with his desire to create more contemporary drums. Walking in two worlds, he struggles to seek balance between creating traditional drums and exploring his own originality by developing designs he dreamed of for years.
Eagle’s decision to ask for WESST’s assistance to create a business plan that would allow him to take advantage of other assistance programs and get his business started was not easy. He and his father reached out to WESST together with open minds and thoughtful approaches to both the business and traditional side of their drums. They have taken advantage of meetings with the WESST Santa Fe staff to understand the principles needed to create a viable and profitable business. Hours were spent with WESST Santa Fe discussing and evaluating his passion and business goals, understanding if they were attainable, and creating plans for reaching them.
Eagle is now creating and selling his drums in other markets in NM and AZ. He participated in the Santa Fe Indian Market and has applied for acceptance in the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market for 2017.