Turtle Effigy


He won't turn loose until it thunders...

There are two kinds of turtles that live with the Cherokees, those that live on land and those that live in the water. The taksi (land turtle) was a great warrior at one time. All that remains today as evidence of his great power is his shield, which he now wears on his back, and his powerful legs. The old warriors used to rub taksi on their legs to make them strong and powerful. When I was a child my grandmother told my brothers and I to do the same. We never knew why, but we did it.

There is a giant turtle called Saliguga -- the Alligator Snapping Turtle. It can be found on land or in the water. Saliguga is big like a boulder, hisses like a snake, has long sharp claws and looks like it has miniature mountains growing on its hard black shell.

In the summertime, when I was a small boy, we would walk from my mother and father's house to my grandmother's house, kicking up the dust with our bare feet. We had to cross a beautiful stone and cement bridge that reached across Whitewater creek. Sometimes Saliguga would be there walking with us. My mother told us never to tease the turtle. He was faster than he seemed and his bite could break a stick in half. She said that if he ever bit us, "He won't turn loose until it thunders." We never teased Saliguga.



Turtle Effigy Photo

3"H x 4.5"D

Medium: Hand coiled native clay. Pit fired.

Private Collection