L is for Leggings

Helbing Collection A-Z is a continuing feature of our blog. Each week for 26 weeks, I will highlight an item or items from our Helbing Collection of Native American Arts and Crafts.

This week we will look at another of my favorite items. (Yes, I have a lot of favorites.) These turtle shell leggings often catch the eyes of our visitors, they are very popular on school tours. In fact, I remember being fascinated by the turtle shells when I toured the museum as a child.

These leggings or shackles are worn by Creek women during the “Stomp Dance” of the Green Corn Festival to keep rhythm as the community dances. Cleora explains it well in her notes:

“This pair of dancing leggings, worn by the Creek Indian women, are made from brown Indian tanned leather and measure 13.5 x 8.5 inches. On each of the leggings, which are strapped with thongs to the leg below the knee, are four baby turtle shells filled with small pebbles which rattle in movement. When all the Creeks dance and get the right rhythm, it is quite beautiful. These dancing leggings were given to me by Mrs. MacIntosh. Her daughters were very fine women employees in the Indian Bureau.”

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3 Responses to L is for Leggings

  1. Abby says:

    Very interesting, how they are made out of small turtle shells.

  2. dont have one yet says:

    mvskoke creek women wear shells but them are wanna be’s. they never wear the little black turtle with yellow stripes. and there not arranged like that and they all have to be female turtles with the little skirt on the back of the shell.

    • Ann says:

      Thank you so much! I also appears that the leather part has never been used. The donor received these as a gift. It is probable that they were made as a mock up or model for her since she would not have participated in the dance. But it is wonderful to have such a great description of what real ones would look like. Again – Thank you!

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