Shell Shaker

Women hold an important role in the Stomp Dances of the Southeastern Indian cultures: That of the Shell Shaker. The Shell Shaker is the female counterpart of the Dance Singer.

The first man leads the men and the first woman leads the other women. She wears leg rattles made from box tortoise shells on her lower legs. The woman enters the dance behind the lead singer and produces rythmic rattling sounds made by shuffling her feet. Legend has it that because of the natural designs on the tortoise shell that look like women dancing - Turtle says, "Let Women Dance."

Today, some shell shakers have begun using shackles made from milk cans. This practice originated at Medicine Springs as a form of training for young girls before they moved on to using the turtle shells. Today it is considered respectful for those who wear milk can shackles, unless they are leading in the ceremonial dance, to allow shell shakers with turtle shells to always be in front of them.

Information provided by the Cherokee Nation Cultural Resource Center. For information regarding culture and language, please contact: culture@cherokee.org.