picture of cover


THE SERI INDIANS of Sonora Mexico

by Bernice Johnston




Necklaces

photo of woman with necklaces

Probably people of every culture in the world have hung something around their necks for adornment. The Seri, too, have always had necklaces. These are still made, although most of the production is sold to visitors.

There is quite a bit of work involved in making the necklaces, but women receive little for their labors. It is pleasant to stroll along a beach and pick up shells, but if they are collected for necklaces, much more is involved.

Great numbers of uniform shells must be available for selection in order to design attractive patterns. Several tedious steps follow the collecting. The end of each shell must be tapped off. Tiny olivellas are bleached white by stirring them in sand over a hot fire. Any animal remains are then poked out with a pin and the shells are strung. Other shells are pierced with a nail on a handle or by other means according to the thickness and brittleness of the shell.

Bird, fish, and rattlesnake vertebrae are strung with spacings of seeds or shells. Some of the former are colored; shells are not. Clay beads are dyed blue with household bluing or left a terra cotta color. Though a little heavy, the clay beads are attractive. Gross necklaces of large vertebrae dyed with bright colors and combined with huge shells have been introduced in recent years.

Other beads that have become practically non-existent in the last few years are those made of the antennae and eyes of lobsters, or octopi suction cups. Reeds were also cut into short lengths and dyed. Dried flower blossoms are still used but these appear only in the fall when the blossoms drop and can be collected. These are quite unusual and lovely. When the dried orange flowers are dipped in water for a short time, they swell up and are soft and natural looking. They may be dipped and dried over and over.

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The University of Arizona Press, 4/2/97 2:33PM