Pacific Northwest Coast First Nations rattles or shakers are an instrument that is used in sweat lodge and healing ceremonies, community songs or a moment of reflection and connection on a walkabout or journey. All nations used the rattle in one form or another, as simple as a handful of stones shaken in ones hands to the more intricately adorned rattles that are used by many Nations.
Rattles can be made out of wild deer and moose rawhide, caved wood such as cedar and gourds. The Moose skin, being thicker and able to receive humidity, is well preferred in sweat lodges where it can keep its shape and sound. The deer is good for smaller women’s and animal totem shaped rattles. Also, the thicker ones are sometimes used as a drum stick on the hand drum for healing and ceremonial purposes. Southern Nations use red eared turtle shells. Often rattles are adorned with leather, rawhide, bead work and feathers as well as fur, fringe, seeds, rocks, antlers, horns, bones and shells. The items placed inside the rattle also have special importance and are often chosen with great care. Occasionally clay beads are used as well as blue corn or manzanita seeds. Some Native people who make rattles search for small smooth pebbles found near the opening of an ant hill to place inside their rattle.
The North American Aboriginal rattle is also an instrument that is said to refer to the three kingdoms. The animal kingdom, represented by the container or feather decoration, the mineral kingdom represented by rocks used for sound or the paint used in the decoration. The plant kingdom is represented by the container or the wooden handle of the rattle.
These rattles were handmade and donated by a local aboriginal artist who would like to remain anonymous.