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Article

David P. McAllester

Rattle consisting of small pieces of flint of ritually prescribed shapes and colours used by the Navajo people of the southwestern USA to accompany songs in the Flintway ceremony. The flints are cupped in both hands and shaken to produce a jingling sound. They symbolize the restoration of fractured or dislocated bones as well as the renewal of vitality in general....

Article

J. Richard Haefer

(Apache: ísal, ‘pot’ or ‘bucket’; ‘bucket bound around’)

Water drum of the Apache people of Arizona and New Mexico. A large iron pot or kettle with the handle removed is partially filled with water and sacred materials (corn pollen and ash). A buckskin head (or nowadays sometimes rubber from a truck tire inner tube) is lashed tightly over the opening with buckskin thongs or strips of cloth or inner-tube rubber, with the excess skin or rubber draped around the pot. Historically a large pottery vessel was used; there is no evidence for use of a wooden vessel. The drumstick, of pine, is wrapped in buckskin at the distal end.

The drum accompanies singing, secular and religious (na-i-es, girl’s puberty ceremony; edotal, diagnostic; gojital, curing). It is usually played in groups of four with the performers standing and holding the drums under the left elbow, but in the curing rites it is held in the lap of a seated player. The earliest representation of the drum is a painting by George Catlin of ...

Article

Beverley Diamond

revised by J. Richard Haefer

[kalluraq, kalluak, kaylukuk, kotlookuk]

Ceremonial box drum associated with the Messenger Feast of the Iñupiaq-speaking people of Alaska. It is a rectangular wooden case (usually made of poplar), 45 to 90 cm tall by 18 to 30 cm long and wide. A fur-padded rail, attached along one side with a strip of black whale baleen, is struck with a thick, short stick while the drum is suspended from the ceiling of the ceremonial house. The drum is played by a seated drummer (usually male) wearing the tuutlik, a loon-skin headdress. A soundhole can be cut in the bottom of the drum and a handhold attached to one side. The drum is decorated with a zigzag pattern on the top edge and with eagle feathers. In the native cosmology that explains the origin of the feast, the drum is said to represent an eagle’s heartbeat.

The Tlingit people call the box drum lákt gaaw. Such instruments are often decorated in red and black stylized raven patterns....

Article

David P. McAllester

revised by J. Richard Haefer

Water drum used in meetings of the Native American (or Peyote) Church. The standard drum consists of a well-soaked buckskin head stretched over an iron kettle about 25 cm deep. The best skins are said to be ‘brain tanned’. The head symbolizes the former war shield, now a spiritual shield. It is attached by an intricate tying method that has symbolic import. Symbolism and rules may vary from fireplace to fireplace with some ideas common throughout the religion. Seven stones or marbles indicating the seven days, the seven sisters (constellations), the seven senses (orifices) of the face, or, for the Sioux, the seven council fires, are tied to the head. The rope tying the head represents the rope used to tie enemies, the reins of war horses, or blood veins. The kettle is half-filled with water, which represents rain or the water of the earth; the sound of the drum represents thunder. Live coals (four to 12 depending on the fireplace) symbolizing lightning are put in the water before the head is attached. The skin is kept moist during meetings by vigorously shaking the kettle between songs or by a quick shake during a song when the sound begins to change. At some fireplaces the drummer will suck or blow on the edge of the drum to force water onto the head, while at others this is prohibited....

Article

David P. McAllester

revised by J. Richard Haefer

Small vessel rattle used by singers during ceremonies of the Native American (or Peyote) Church. It is a gourd about 8 to 9 cm in diameter containing pebbles, pierced by a straight wooden handle about 25 to 30 cm long that passes through the gourd and projects slightly. A circular stopper on the handle prevents the stones from falling out. A tuft of dyed horsehair, representing the peyote cactus blossom, is tied to the projecting end. The handle, which may be carved or beaded at the base, symbolizes the arrow or the riding crop used in war but now used in peace. The beadwork may show various symbolic designs: rainbow for beauty of life, red–white–blue for war veterans, fire, or water. 12 tassels cut from a bow string (so it can never be used on a bow again) decorate the end of the handle to symbolize the months or yearly cycle. The user shakes the rattle with one hand and holds the peyote staff (symbolic of the broken bow) in his other hand. The stopper can be of wood or even a coin; it does not touch the edge of the gourd. Friction of the end of the handle projecting at the top (symbolic of the arrow head) holds the handle to the gourd. The rattle pebbles may have individual significance such as turquoise for an Apache, salt, ant, or ocean pebbles, and so on. The outer surface of the rattle may be decorated in patterns related to the peyote ceremony or patterns important to the owner such as stars, moon, fire, eagle; older rattles often had patterns scratched into the surface....