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When most people hear the word “rattle,” they tend to think of the wood, plastic, or cloth rattles given to babies. There are some Native American tribes that gift rattles to babies and younger children, but that doesn’t mean that Native American rawhide rattles are toys. Rather, they are a sacred and integral part of many Native American tribes. These rattles, also commonly referred to as shakers, date back to historic times. They’re used to keep rhythm during tribal dances and spiritual and non-spiritual ceremonies. Rattles are used by most Native American tribes, unlike other instruments, such as the drum, which are used by many, but not all. This makes them a fundamental part of Native American life and culture. While rattles are used universally, their appearance and usage varies from tribe to tribe. Let’s take a closer look at what makes Native American rawhide rattles unique.
Rattles are an instrument of storytelling, ceremony, and culture. They’re typically designed to represent the three kingdoms or nations, which include the animal kingdom, mineral kingdom, and plant kingdom. Each of these kingdoms are represented by a different element of the rattle. A turtle shell, representing the animal kingdom, might be used to create the rattle head. Pebbles, representing the mineral kingdom, might be used to fill the rattle and create its distinctive sound. The plant kingdom, then, is represented in the rattle’s wooden handle.
Rattles are also used to represent the tribe. Tribes such as Apache, Pueblo, Zuni, and Hopi use different beads, colors, and designs to differentiate their rattles. Different types of rattles are made by different tribes, as well. Rawhide is common, but some tribes make rattles from turtle shells or hollowed-out gourds instead.
Another thing that makes Native American rawhide rattles unique is the materials that they’re made from. The type of materials used to make rattles can vary depending on the artist and the tribe they’re from. The rattle head is typically made from an animal shell, rawhide, leather, or other materials. The Hopi are known for making rattles from hollowed-out gourds, while the Navajo and other tribes use turtle shells for the rattle head. To make the sound, individuals place corn, pebbles, beans, or seeds inside. The handle is normally made from wood. Once the rattle is created, the artist decorates it with feathers, beads, and other natural materials to make it one-of-a-kind. The rattle may continue to be decorated over time by the person who owns it.
Every rattle is unique. The materials and decorations tell a story of the tribe, the artist, and the musician that have played a part in the instrument’s creation and life. If you’re searching for authentic, masterfully crafted Native American rawhide rattles for sale, come and shop with Tachini Drums. Our rawhide rattles can be used for ceremonies, healing, meditation, dance, and more!