Puberty Neckpiece

Puberty Neckpiece

Circular willow frame used to extend puberty hood in front of the face

Decorated with three goat/sheep toenails and swan bone straw.

A person's survival and future depended upon knowledge and skills acquired during adolescence. At the onset of puberty, boys and girls began rigorous ritual training. A girl was secluded in a puberty shelter for a period of one month to one year. She wore a puberty hood and was not allowed to see taboo subject matter.

The neckpiece held the hood outward obscuring faces and hiding the sky. The decorative toenails would have also acted like a bell to warn hunters of her presence. During this time, the girl was forbidden to eat fresh meat or fish and could not have water touch her teeth. She drank through a drinking tube, usually made from swan bone. The girl would busy herself with domestic tasks, such as sewing and basket making. The neckpiece could be made ahead of time and by someone of her moiety, usually her mother. At the end of her seclusion, the girl hung the necklace, a representation of her puberty, on the young spruce tree well out in the bush where no one could take it and harm her spirit.


Kluane Museum of History, Burwash Landing

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