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.