The turtle (Keya) in Sioux culture is the guardian of life, patron of healing, and controlled accidents. The turtle is wise and hears many things and does not tell anything. It’s skin is like a shield so no arrows can wound it. The turtle is fierce in it’s attack of others.
In Legend, Keya allies himself with the thunderbeings in order to destroy the bad spirits that lurk in the water. Mothers often placed an image of Keya on the navel of their babies and thus protected them from the bowel troubles that can affect babies. Later when the navel detached itself, it was placed inside a turtle amulet along with sage, sweetgrass, and sometimes stones. This was done in order that the child would carry the attributes of the turtle. This act also bonded the child with the mother and all of life.
The turtle symbolizes long life, dedication, and steadfastness.
By: Leonard Little Thunder