Turtle Amulet, c. 1875 (Teton Dakota)

Turtle Amulet, c. 1875 (Teton Dakota)

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Tanned cervid leather, vegetable fibre, glass count (covered stitch embroidery)


C.A. 454


Donated by the US Catholic Mission Association, 1893

This turtle shaped amulet contained the umbilical chord and was worn by female members of the tribe throughout their entire lives, either as a pendant or tied to the belt. Such amulets were made by the grandmother or aunt of the child and gifted to her in the days following the birth. The umbilical chord was severed, dried, and placed within the piece, whose interior was lined with bison fur. The turtle symbol was an omen for a long and healthy life. Though similar amulets shaped like lizards or snakes were made for male children, few examples remain, possibly due to the more active lifestyle practiced by male members of the tribe.