The Turtle Dance

Traditionally these long handled rattles are carried by the dancer during ceremonies. The deer leg represents swiftness and the turtle longevity. Each rattle with vary in size and color of shell, leather and beads.

The Turtle Dance is an important religious ceremony, defining the end of one year and the beginning of a new one. The dance is named for the Turtle, believed to be the first hibernating being that moves about after the year has turned; thus, the turtle is seen as symbolizing the beginning of each new annual cycle.  This Cherokee holiday begins on January 1 and lasts until January 4 each year.  It is a celebration of life and the first creation.


Yuchi people dancing the Big Turtle Dance, 1909