Native American Rattles

The Native American rattles play an integral part in the music of these people. Drums and rattles are the chief percussion instruments used by the Native Americans. These rattles are made from a variety of materials and also come in different shapes and sizes. Ceremonial Native American rattles are meant solely for use during special occasions. Some of the Native American rattles are exclusive to the different tribes. For instance, the Chemehuevi gourd rattle is made by the Chemehuevi people. As its name suggests, it is made from a gourd. Gourd rattles are always shaken by the dancer or singer and never worn.

The gourd is first dried, before being prepared and decorated as per tribal preferences. This kind of rattle usually has designs painted on it along with a painted handle. The handles could be made of branches of trees such as poplar, oak, rose, or redwood. Feathers used on it could be dyed and are usually peacock feathers or pheasant feathers.  The seeds inside the gourd rattles give them a unique sound. Sometimes stones or crystals are added to give other kinds of sounds. A gourd rattle can cost anything upwards of $100. But there are simple ways in which you can craft Native American rattles right at home from the materials you might find scattered around.

The materials needed can be as simple as an appropriate twig, a ball of yarn, beads, feathers and other such things. Other Native American rattles are made of bone or the shells of turtles. However, bone rattles are made of horns cut to a specific size. The rattle could also be made with the bone left as is except for a hole at the end where a stick can be inserted to serve as a handle. With changing times, the tribes have also adopted newer materials for making their rattles. Metal rattles are now commonly found everywhere.

Joseph Paige 2006

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