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Seeds, a Mouse and a Bead Stringer

This story comes from Mary Musgrove of Des Moines Iowa, USA
and was included in a recent

The Navajo of New Mexico and Arizona string up the seeds of a local juniper tree. They refer to these seeds as "spirit beads," yet sell necklaces to tourists for about US $5.00.

Donor: Elizabeth Harris

Some 20 years ago the Musgroves watched a Navajo boy take these seeds from a container of water, poke a hole into one end with a needle and string them. They brought some seeds home with them to try it themselves. The found that one end would soften, but the other end with the "cap" was too hard to pierce.

A year or two later, they found a mouse nest at Natural Bridges National Monument with lots of juniper seed coats. The mice had chewed off the hard "cap" and eaten the seed inside. The other end of the seed could be easily pierced after soaking. They believe that the Navajo boy had gathered his seeds from a mouse nest.

Warning: It would be foolhardy to do this today due to rodents in the area infected with Hanthavirus, which is quite dangerous to humans.

Three of the four seeds Mrs. Musgrove sent me look as though they had been pierced in this manner. However, most (but not all) seeds on a strand given the Center by Elizabeth Harris some years ago (above) had their caps cut with a metal tool.

It would take a lot of mice nests to provide enough seeds for beads, so liberally used in multiple strand necklaces. On the other hand, it's nice to know that sometimes a little rodent can assist a young bead stringer.


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