U is for Umbilical Cord Holder

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

Dakota Turtle Amulet

These beaded amulets were often used as umbilical cord holders, traditionally made for a newborn child that had come into a family. After the umbilical cord fell off – an umbilical cord holder was made as a container for the umbilical cord. This stayed with the child the rest of its life.Dakota Turtle Amulet

Often used by different Plains tribes, we have 2 Dakota and 1 Ojibwe holder. (These amulets do not contain actual umbilical cords.)

My favorite is the Ojibwe amulet decorated with porcupine quills. The quills are dyes red or yellow and stitched to the leather. At each stitch, the quill is folded over, creating a pattern of triangles.Ojibwe Amulet

All three of ours are turtle shaped. I read that turtles were often used for girls and lizards for boys, but other sources said that multiple shapes were used, from geometric shapes to other animals.

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