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Music and dance help the people celebrate the gift of life, health, friendship, and good times.  The water drum and cowhorn rattle are the principle  traditional musical instruments for the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois).


Music and dance bring the Haudenosaunee community together.  In the Longhouse Religion, the people dance to give thanks to the Creator.  In social dancing, friends and family, Haudenosaunee and non-Haudenosaunee dance together for enjoyment and to reinforce relationships.  Social dancing can take place at the Longhouse or at any gathering. 

COW HORN RATTLES are used to produce the rhythm for song and dance. They can be either hit against the thigh, the palm of the hand, or shaken.  Rattles made of cow horn were not made until after European contact. Prior to the introduction of cows, rattle materials were limited to bark, gourd, and turtle shell. The inside of the horn is shaved thin and dried corn, small stones, cherry pits, or small metal balls inserted to create the sound.

WATER  DRUMS are often used with the cowhorn rattle to produce the rhythms for dance and song. Water is placed inside the drum.  Great care must be taken so that the water will not dry up, the wood dry, and the drum split. The drum is tipped regularly to moisten the skin to maintain its tightness and proper tone.


The skin on the drum reminds the people to respect the animals.  The wooden base of the drum reminds the people to respect the plants and trees. The water in the drum reminds the people that we need water to live.  The round shape of the drum reminds the people of the circle of life.  The beat of the drum reminds the people of the beating of our hearts and that we should cherish the gift of life.

Unknown Track - Unknown Artist

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