Native American Necklace

Native American necklaces have a long and interesting history of trade, storytelling, and achievements by tribal members. Necklaces were made as a story telling device early in their history. Different beads are used in succession to portray different events. Beads were often made form semi precious stones like turquoise or fresh water clamshells and animal bones. As soon as the beads were invented the women of the tribe began using them in ornamental jewelry and storytelling. Necklace making and quilling are regarded as sacred tasks in many tribes and has been an integral part of tribal life ever since.

Stories were told by grandmothers, mothers and sisters to explain the history of the tribe; the elder family member would explain what each bead meant and how it was used to the younger family member. Many times there was no real story and the elders made up the story as they went. Some believe that the story necklaces were adopted form the European's rosary necklaces but this is still under debate. Early white traders called them "fetish" necklaces which tied an unfair and untrue connotation that they were somehow cult like and psychological fixation. The necklaces were all made by hand in large groups of women. Think of it as a the Native American equivalent to the European's quilting circles.

Warriors were given necklaces adorned with animal claws and bones carved into small statues to commemorate their deeds in hunting or in battle. This may have been the earliest use of the necklace for reasons other than ornamental. Necklaces were also used in trade agreements and trading practices with other tribes and people. The "purchase" of Manhattan form the Native Americans was probably misinterpreted as a "guest gift" from the Europeans; the Europeans gave about $25.00 worth of beads to a member of the Wappinger Confederacy. Beads and necklaces were often used in the first meeting with a new tribe or group of people as a gift. The same was true for European traders and explorers as necklaces were small and easy to carry.

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