10 Native American Music Traditions



Rattles are another popular instrument used by Native Americans. The rattles are made in several different ways. One is by filling dried gourds with pebbles or seeds, then inserting a handle into the opening. Gourd rattles are popular in the Southwestern U.S. Another involves sticking a wooden handle through a tortoise shell, filling it with pebbles, and then sealing off the openings. Plains Indians often create rattles by using buffalo horns. Other container rattles are crafted from rawhide; the hide is sewn together, shaped and dried, then filled with pebbles.

Deer-hoof, or deer-toe, rattles are crafted by stringing the hooves on a piece of twisted fiber, often agave. You usually need 24 or 32 hooves to make one rattle. The hooves are first boiled, then removed of their cartilage and bone. After being shaped and dried they're strung on the agave or attached to a stick in which holes have been drilled. Deer-hoof rattles make a distinct sound and are typically used only during funerals and wakes [source: Kumeyaay].