Historic Painted Cochiti Pueblo Drum Collection

February 11, 2020 until April 30, 2020


Drums of all sizes, both painted and unpainted, are used in Pueblo ceremonies.  Their sounds suggest the thunder that comes with rain.  Each pueblo drum has two heads.  Ceremonial songs are arranged to increase in intensity slowly and then build up to a climax.  At a point in the song, the drummers know to flip the drum to achieve a higher tone.  This increase in intensity and tone inspires the dancers and gives then the kick to continue dancing.

In 1902, the Candelario store in Santa Fe purchased 100 drums, but its ledger does not indicate size or origin.  Another entry the same year indicates that Candelario paid 75 cents per drum.  In 1903, another merchant, S. Dozier of Espanola, offered a Denver client two large dance drums as part of a shipment, but the price was not indicated.

Pueblo drums are generally made by hollowing out a log and stretching animal skin over each end. The heads of pueblo drums are generally painted, most often black.  There are usually several drummers participating in pueblo dances. Each drummer holds a drum and beats it with a drumstick.

This collection of vintage painted drums—made by various Cochiti Pueblo drum makers of the past—comes from the estate of a client who recently passed away. Grouping the ten drums together for display is an awesome look. The drums vary in size and color, making quite a statement when grouped. Individually, they are also quite impressive. Most of them are at least 50 years old and some might be older.


  • Batkin, Jonathan.  The Native American Curio Trade in New Mexico.  Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, Santa Fe. 2008
  • Marshall, Ann. Rain: Native Expressions From the American Southwest.  Heard Museum. Museum of New Mexico Press. 2000.
  • Feder, Norman.  "Indian Musical and Noise-Making Instruments" Denver Art Museum Leaflet No. 29, August 1931.

View our other current and upcoming shows: