Native American Rattles

Find out what Native American rattles are and for what they are used.

Man has always music and sought out ways to make it. Rattles have been used throughout the world to help keep rhythm during tribal dances and ceremonies.  Native American rattles may date back to historic times.  They were the perfect accompaniment to Native American ceremonies, which often included dancing.  The rhythm the rattle helps keep during the dance is unforgettable – something that resonates to the very soul, helping make the ceremony a spiritual experience.   

Native American rattles can be made of many types of materials.  The Indian tribes of the Northwest coast used one of their most plentiful resources – wood – to carve a hollow container.  The Plains tribes had an abundance of rawhide, which they used to shape a container for their rattles.  Tribes of the Southwest used gords and even others used turtle shells, horns, or anything that would hold the insides of the Native American rattle – seed, rocks, shells.  It was those items that gave the rattle its rattle sound.

When you see Native American rattles, you may not realize all that they symbolize.  The rattle is an instrument of independence.  It is a piece that utilizes what the Native Americans refer to as the three kingdoms or nations.  The animal kingdom is represented by the container or feather decorations used on the rattle.  The mineral kingdom is represented by rocks used for sound or the paint used for decoration.  The plant kingdom is represented by the container (if a gord is used) or the wooden handle of the rattle.  The Native Americans realize that spiritual energy can be derived from the trance like state that can be induced by music.  The rattle causes our bodies and minds both to respond to it.  Some cultures believe that music can unblock energy within our bodies and thus heal us of ailments.  The beating of the rattle helps break up stagnant energy that is blocking the natural flow within your body.  It can also help us focus on our souls, our cores.  If you sit quietly alone or with friends and shake a Native American rattle, the music will help you clear your mind and open a doorway to a different emotional place.

You can teach your children to make Native American rattles with things normally found around the house.  You will need a soda can, a large nail, a hammer, a dowel (about 11 inches long), beans, construction paper, scissors, glue, masking tape, and markers.  To decorate the Native American rattle, you can use yarn, string, beads, and feathers.  To make the rattle, first remove the pop tops from the soda can and rinse it clean.  Using your nail and hammer, make a hole in the bottom of the can.  Make another hole in t he center of the top of the soda can.  Pour your beans in (as few or as many as you want to change the sound).  Take over the hole in the top.  Insert the dowel in the hole in the bottom and take around it to secure it.  Your child can then decorate it by wrapping it in the construction paper and drawing symbols or attaching beads, feathers, or yarn.

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