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date: 29 May 2020


  • Susan M. Taffe Reed
  •  and Glen Jacobs


Generic term for rattles of the Munsee Indians of the Eastern Woodlands in North America; their relatives the Unami use the word shuhënikàn. The Munsee and Unami, referred to historically as the Lenape or Delaware Indians, possess a number of vessel and suspension rattles for social and ceremonial purposes.

Turtle rattles (takwaxii-shohwuniikanal in Munsee or tahkoxi šuhənikʌn in Unami) are made from the shells of snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina), box turtles (Terrapene carolina), and painted turtles (Chrysemys picta). The shell of pamputis (snapping turtle) is used to make ceremonial rattles by removing the turtle’s entrails, inserting pebbles in the shell, and sewing the turtle’s skin back together with animal tendon. A wooden splint is run from the underside of the shell to the bottom of the turtle’s head and the extended neck is wrapped with a leather strip. The rattle is played by shaking it in a vertical position or by striking it on one’s knee....

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