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‘Tying them here’: the tradition of Indigenous baby bracelets

‘Tying them here’: the tradition of Indigenous baby bracelets
Photo credit: B. Nadli

OHSWEKEN — Around the world, Indigenous mothers share a common tradition: tying a bracelet around the wrists of newborn babies. The tradition dates back so far that no one can clearly identify from when or where it began. But across Indigenous cultures the tradition seems to echo one consistent sentiment: protection. Without going into the

OHSWEKEN — Around the world, Indigenous mothers share a common tradition: tying a bracelet around the wrists of newborn babies.

The tradition dates back so far that no one can clearly identify from when or where it began. But across Indigenous cultures the tradition seems to echo one consistent sentiment: protection.

Without going into the specific details of the sacred — among Indigenous families the practice is done as a way of “tying” babies and children to the physical world.

Small deer hide leather bracelets are attached usually to the left wrist, though some families tie both wrists or ankles. The bracelets are left on the child throughout their infancy until they fall off.

Among the Athabaskan peoples moose hide or beaver fur is used. Some Cree traditions tie bear fur bracelets around the wrists of their newborns.

Indigenous mothers from Central America practice a similar tradition by tying a bracelet of red beads or seeds to their babies wrist to ward off the “evil eye” or negative energy.

The tradition carries a similar teaching among most nations: that infants and young children are closer to the spiritual realm. For that reason, it is common among several indigenous cultures to ‘tie’ young children to Mother Earth when a death has occurred in one’s family.

Pregnant mothers sometimes have their wrists tied for the duration of their pregnancy as well to protect the child and ward off sickness.

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Nahnda Garlow

Nahnda Garlow

Nahnda Garlow is Onondaga under the wing of the Beaver Clan of Six Nations. Nahnda has been a journalist with the Two Row Times since it's founding in 2013. She is a self-proclaimed "rez girl" who brings to the Two Row Times years of experience as a Haudenosaunee cultural interpreter, traditional dancer and beadwork aficionado. Nahnda is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association.

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5 Comments

  • Vee Custalow Reel
    December 7, 2020, 2:54 pm

    I enjoyed reading..its winderful reading and learning frim many if not all tribes.

    REPLY
  • Ernie
    December 3, 2020, 4:53 am

    my mother tied one on my wrist when I was born. At the time and place being Indigenous was not acceptable.

    REPLY
  • Dawn
    July 18, 2020, 10:05 pm

    I remember when my newborn nephew’s aunts died shortly after his birth in 1973, his father tied a thin piece of leather around his little wrist. I remember holding him and touching it and asking why he had it on. His dad said to leave it on. I wanted to know the why. I was only 13, had grown up in church and really appreciated hearing the why. He explained how because he was only a few weeks old and not as tethered to this world as he still was to sky world. Therefore, his aunts had the power or ability to take him back with them.
    That scared me and I held him closer, his auntie on this side not willing to let him go.

    REPLY
  • Iris Graham
    January 9, 2020, 2:57 pm

    Very interesting website. I’m from the Six Nations and my clan is turtle and upper Cayuga. I enjoy learning about my roots.

    REPLY
    • Myrtle Jamieson@Iris Graham
      January 10, 2020, 12:04 am

      I have heard this tradition from a friend in the Six Nations Reserve, I enjoy listening to other Native Culture Tradition..Miigwech/Nia:weh

      REPLY
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