Navajo Cradle Boards

Cradleboards were used during periods when the infant’s mother had to travel or otherwise be mobile for work, and needed to protect the infant. The cradleboard could be carried on the mother’s back, using support from “tumplines”, or “burden straps” that would wrap around her forehead, chest or shoulders; if she carried a pack as well as the cradleboard, the pack strap would go around her chest and the cradleboard strap would go around her forehead. The cradleboard can also be stood up against a large tree or rock if the infant is small, or hung from a pole (as inside an Iroquois longhouse), or even hung from a sturdy tree branch. They were also used when longer travel was required, as the cradleboard could be attached to a horse for transportation.Cradleboards have been used in cultures ranging from the sub-Arctic regions of present-day Canada, down to Mexico and Central America. In Arctic regions, cold weather does not make a cradleboard feasible for the infant’s survival, and infants are carried by being placed in a sling worn under the mother’s parka. Cradleboards were widely used by indigenous people across present-day North America. Cradleboards are used by the Kickapoo people in Mexico and were used by Aztecs and the Seri people and Mayan communities as far south as Belize. In present-day South America, most indigenous cultures used slings or pouches, sometimes called a rebozo, for carrying infants rather than cradleboards. Cradleboards were used as in the Americas as far south as the Patagonia region.Cradleboards (Cheyenne: pâhoešestôtse, Northern Sami: gietkka, Skolt Sami: ǩiõtkâm, Inari Sami: kietkâm, Pite Sami: gietkam) are traditional protective baby-carriers used by many indigenous cultures in North America and throughout northern Scandinavia among the Sámi. There is a variety of styles of cradleboard, reflecting the diverse artisan practices of indigenous cultures. Some indigenous communities in North America still use cradleboards.Cradleboard use has been associated with increased incidence of developmental dysplasia of the hip. The technique requires straightening the legs, which encourages dislocation of the femur and malformation of the acetabulum. This can be avoided by placing padding between the baby’s legs to keep the knees slightly bent with the hips angled outward. Some modern cradleboard users contend that the small 1968 study of Navajo babies was intentionally designed to denigrate a traditional cultural practice, although a 2012 study produced hip dysplasia in laboratory rats by subjecting them to similar conditions.

Whatever materials are used to make cradleboards, they share certain structural elements. Cradleboards are built with a broad, firm protective frame for the infant’s spine. A footrest is incorporated into the bottom of the cradleboard, as well as a rounded cover over the infant’s head that arcs out from the cradleboard, similar to a canopy or a modern-day baby carriage hood. The purpose of this headpiece is to provide shade for the infant, since it could be covered with an animal skin, or a blanket in winter to protect against the elements in colder climates. The headpiece also provides extra head protection in case anything bumps against the cradleboard. Ornaments and sacred amulets are often attached to the headpiece as well, for example “beaded umbilical cord cases, and dream catchers or medicine wheels”, to amuse and help the infant develop his or her eyesight.

Is a cradleboard safe?
In addition, for the first time, the AAP recommendations recognized cradleboards, used by some American Indian communities, as a culturally appropriate infant sleep surface, according to the AAP. Caregivers should be careful not to overly bundle the infant in a cradleboard, causing the baby to overheat.
In the southwest United States and northern Mexico, among cultures such as the Hopi and Apache, infants would spend most of their day and night in the cradleboard, being taken out of it for progressively longer periods, for up to five times per day. When the infant reaches the age when it can sit up unsupported, it is then gradually weaned from the use of the cradleboard, and spends progressively less time in it. At this time, the infant may use a second, larger cradleboard that replaces the first. By the time the infant is a year old and begins to walk, they are generally finished with cradleboard use.The inside of the cradleboard is padded with a lining of fresh plant fibres, such as sphagnum moss, cattail down, or shredded bark from juniper or cliffrose. The lining serves as a disposable diaper, although the Navajo could clean and reuse the lining made of shredded juniper or cliffrose bark. These plant fibres have antiseptic properties, and thus nurture healthy skin in the infant. The Chippewa tradition was to make a lining for the cradleboard usually from moss growing in cranberry marshes, which is smoked over a fire to kill insects, then rubbed and pulled to soften it. In cold weather, the infant’s feet may be wrapped in rabbit skin with the fur facing inward. The moss lining is surrounded by a birch bark tray insert placed into the cradleboard, which could be removed for cleaning.Cradleboard use and its effect on mother-infant interaction has been studied in Navajo communities. It has been shown that cradleboard use has no significant negative effect on this development. In the first few months of infancy, cradleboards have a soothing effect on babies. After 6 months of age or more, infants begin to resist being placed in cradleboards more vigorously as they become more mobile, and they are often placed in the cradleboard with their arms and hands free, so that they can play with objects hung from the cradleboard for their amusement.

Cradleboards are used for the first few months of an infant’s life, when a portable carrier for the baby is a necessity. Some cradleboards are woven, as with the Apache. Woven cradleboards are made of willow, dogwood, tule, or cattail fibres. Wooden cradleboards are made by the Iroquois and Penobscot. Navajo cradleboards are made with a Ponderosa pine frame with buckskin laces looped through the frame.
Navajo child on a cradleboard with lamb approaching, Window Rock, Arizona. Photographed by H. Armstrong Roberts, ca. 1936, courtesy of the U.S. National Archives.The baby is swaddled in cloth and held secure with rawhide ties. Parents use the cradleboard to keep their babies safe until the child is ready to crawl. Cradleboards enable mothers to carry their babies on their backs or to take them along on horseback. Cradleboards can also be hung from the branches of a tree or propped against the trunk.

What is the history of the cradleboard?
In most historical Plains cultures, a new mother’s relatives made a cradleboard for the baby. The complex and colorful beaded panels on this example are part of traditional Kiowa designs created by women, though many tribes favored the painted and brass-tacked frames produced by men.
The Cliff-rose is a medium sized, freely branched, evergreen shrub/small tree that primarily grows in pine/juniper forests on dry rocky slopes and canyons at 4000-8000 feet elevation. The bitter-tasting foliage has caused it to sometimes be called Quininebush.Navajo cradleboards are made either by men or women. After the child’s birth, the wood is chosen from the eastern side of a secluded cedar or juniper tree that has not been struck by lightning, rubbed against by a bear, or broken by the wind. Cradleboards are thought of as a gift from the Holy People. The backboards represent mother earth and father sky. The head loop is bent like a rainbow to keep the child safe.

Why do Navajos tie their hair?
The Navajo people hold their hair in high regard and believe it is connected to a person’s thoughts and therefore should not be cut. The Navajo bun is a traditional hairstyle for both men and women, where the the hair is wrapped and then tied with yarn spun from sheep’s wool.
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This is a very handy pipe that can be carried along conveniently. It only measure 10 inches, accentuated with fur trimming and a small sized horn. The glass beading adds to its aesthetic, and also functionality, as it serves as a sling. This compact size pipe is fully functional.

Traditional Southwestern Native American wood cradle board, handcrafted with real cedar slats and leather lace. This American Indian papoose cradle board is an authentic Native American handcraft made by the famous craftsmen of the Navajo Tribe for decoration. Famous for their rich history in New Mexico and Arizona, the Navajo Indians have been building traditional handcrafts for generations.If you are making your own headdress or warbonnet you will want a warbonnet headdress crown. This fur felt crown is of the same high quality as comes with most of our already made warbonnets.

Imitation Sinew available in seven different colors! It’s super strong, pre-waxed, and may be split into any size and can be used with almost any needle. It’s handy for leatherwork and stringing projects. It also comes in two size spools: 30 feet and 100 feet.
This Imitation Sinew is super strong, pre-waxed, and may be split into any size for use with almost any needle. It’s best for craft projects, leather work, or stringing projects. The SL/09 is ready for use and doesn’t need any splitting.The Met Collection API is where all makers, creators, researchers, and dreamers can connect to the most up-to-date data and public domain images for The Met collection. Open Access data and public domain images are available for unrestricted commercial and noncommercial use without permission or fee.We continue to research and examine historical and cultural context for objects in The Met collection. If you have comments or questions about this object record, please complete and submit this form. The Museum looks forward to receiving your comments.In most historical Plains cultures, a new mother’s relatives made a cradleboard for the baby. The complex and colorful beaded panels on this example are part of traditional Kiowa designs created by women, though many tribes favored the painted and brass-tacked frames produced by men. The cradleboard allowed the baby to be carried on the mother’s back, suspended from her saddle, or propped against the tipi. This one shows considerable use: preceding generations likely passed it down.

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Are cradle boards safe for newborns?
Just like a car seat – baby should not be in the cradleboard for long periods. Always place the cradleboard flat on the floor, away from heaters or anything that could fall on baby. To keep baby safe in the cradleboard do not lean cradleboard against wall or anything else.
Get your first look at sketches of three beautiful Future Museum features: The We Energies Foundation Gallery: Rainforest, the Puelicher Butterfly Vivarium, and the Bucyrus Rooftop Terrace.These are referred to simply as “cradles” and “cradle baskets.” While the term “cradle” better encompasses the variety present in Native carrier construction, it is also frequently used to describe carriers used by non-Native cultures. “Cradleboards” are the most commonly recognized type of American Indian baby carrier, and as the term implies, include a wooden component that was most frequently a flat backboard. Because the term is specifically associated with American Indian cultures, it continues to be used by researchers and Native peoples as a means of easily identifying all types of Native cradles. Both are acceptable terms for these objects, but when specifically discussing styles not involving a board, “cradle” is the most suitable description.

Some tribes created their cradles with multiple removable pieces, so cloth wrappers and ties, bedding, or umbilical amulets that were often attached to the board itself also make up a significant part of this collection. While integral components of the cradle, they cannot always easily be attributed without corresponding pieces, and are not included in this webpage.
Cradle making was often reserved for the most accomplished artisans, and cradleboards were some of the most costly items to produce, usually given as gifts. In fact, few children had a cradle created for them. If a family didn’t have a cradle of their own, one was often borrowed from friends or distant relatives until the child outgrew it. Those families that were gifted with a cradle continued to use it for generations.The Museum’s collection of cradles, cradleboards, and associated accoutrements includes nearly 200 items. The Museum possesses 63 cradles and cradleboards in complete or nearly-complete condition, which come from every cultural area in the United States. A great number are attributed to the Ojibwa/Chippewa, Winnebago/Ho-Chunk, Iroquois, and Potawatomi tribes of the Northeast (Great Lakes) area, as well as Western tribes like the Paiute, Pomo, and Kwakiutl, and the Hopi in the Southwest.

In Rainforest, visitors will be transported to the tropics to learn about the biodiversity that flourishes there and the life supported by those climates. Directly connected to Rainforest, visitors will be able to enter the Vivarium—a warm, lush garden thriving with real plants and live butterflies. Just beyond these two areas, visitors will be able to enjoy the fresh air and take in views of the city on the Rooftop Terrace.
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While all cradleboards had the singular purpose of securely carrying a child, some cradleboards were viewed as symbols of kinship and Native identity, and have often been considered by others as works of art. Cradles held both symbolic and practical purposes, so great care was taken in their creation; some took months to complete. While modern technology provides alternatives to the cradleboard, the additional communal aspects have been influential in the maintenance of cradleboard traditions.
Toy and model cradles were created for young girls to use in play, which helped to prepare them for their roles as future caretakers. Frequently decorated and usually including dolls, toys often differ in size and construction from their practical counterparts, so they have also not been included in this survey.

As part of safe sleep week, MDH also continues its tradition of partnering with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to illuminate the I-35W Bridge in pink, white and blue during Infant Safe Sleep Week on the night of Nov. 16. Hennepin County partners are also illuminating the Lowry Avenue Bridge in pink, white and blue on the same night. In addition, MDH thanked the Sanford Luverne Medical Center for its commitment to education and best practices by achieving Silver Safe Sleep Hospital status as part of the National Safe Sleep Hospital Certification.
In addition, for the first time, the AAP recommendations recognized cradleboards, used by some American Indian communities, as a culturally appropriate infant sleep surface, according to the AAP. Caregivers should be careful not to overly bundle the infant in a cradleboard, causing the baby to overheat.

Who makes Navajo cradleboard?
The cradle board is constructed by the father of the infant, who selects cottonwood or pine for the back board. Cached
“If we’ve learned anything, it’s that simple is best. Parents can keep their babies safe by remembering their ABC’s. Their baby should sleep, Alone, on their Back, and in a Crib or bassinet without soft toys, pillows, bumpers or blankets,” said Dr. Andrew Kiragu, past president of the Minnesota chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a co-chair of the chapter’s child safety caucus.For Minnesota’s Infant Safe Sleep Week, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is encouraging parents and caregivers to tune into what pediatricians are saying about the best ways to keep babies sleeping safely.

What is a Navajo cradleboard?
The Navajo cradleboard is a traditional kind of Native American baby carrier. The cradleboard frame is usually made of a wooden backboard with a wooden hoop (called “the rainbow”) attached to the top of the board over where the infant’s head lies.
Parents can also save their money and avoid cardiorespiratory monitors, as there’s no evidence they reduce the risk of unexpected infant deaths, according to the recommendations. Parents should also reject head-shaping pillows and weighted blankets, weighted sleepers, weighted swaddles, or other weighted objects on or near a sleeping infant as they can create an unsafe sleeping space.Nationally, about 3,500 infants die from sleep-related infant deaths a year in the United States, according to the AAP. The annual number of deaths has remained about the same since 2000 after a substantial decline in deaths in the 1990s attributed to public health campaigns encouraging parents and caregivers to put babies to sleep on their backs.

Is the cradleboard safe?
Just like a car seat – baby should not be in the cradleboard for long periods. Always place the cradleboard flat on the floor, away from heaters or anything that could fall on baby. To keep baby safe in the cradleboard do not lean cradleboard against wall or anything else.
Minnesota’s most recent data from 2020 showed fewer unexpected deaths, 33, than in an average year, according to MDH research. Between 2014 and 2020, Minnesota averaged 47 unexpected infant deaths each year, where Minnesota babies died suddenly and unexpectedly. Nearly all those tragic deaths happened in unsafe sleep environments. There is some evidence that Minnesota parents and caregivers are ensuring safer sleep spaces, increasingly putting babies to bed without soft objects and bedding. In 2020, 64% of mothers reported not using soft bedding, compared to 48% in 2016, according to data collected through monthly surveys with new mothers through the Minnesota Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (MN PRAMS).

What is the purpose of a cradle board?
A cradleboard is a device traditionally used by Indigenous peoples to secure babies in place (typically for the first year or so) while their parents travelled, worked or were otherwise occupied. Infants were bound to a thin rectangular board and wrapped in blankets for comfort and warmth.
Research continues to show that bed-sharing raises the risk of a baby’s injury or death, according to the AAP recommendations. Risks of sleep-related death increase five to 10 times when sleeping on the same surface with someone else when an infant is under 4 months of age. The risk goes up when the co-sleeper is impaired by fatigue, alcohol, or drug use. Additionally, couch sleeping is very risky. The risks of sleep-related infant deaths are up to 67 times higher when an infant is sleeping with someone on a couch, soft armchair or cushion, the AAP said.

For the first time in five years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in June updated its safe sleep recommendations for preventing unexpected deaths for children up to 1 year old. The recommendations continue to support the ABCs of safe sleep:

“This week is an opportunity to get the word out about safe sleep practices such as having babies sleep on their backs, alone and in a crib,” said Minnesota Department of Health Assistant Commissioner Mary Manning. “It also provides a chance to highlight the need for all Minnesotans to have the financial and housing opportunities necessary to provide safe sleeping spaces for babies.”
While overall death numbers have declined, persistent racial and ethnic disparities exist that reflect broader societal inequities, according to research. Nationally, the rate of sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUIDs) among Black and American Indian/Alaska Native infants was more than double and almost triple, respectively, that of white infants (85 per 100,000 live births) in 2010-2013, according to AAP. In Minnesota, between 2014 and 2018, the disparity was three times greater for Black infants and more than eight times greater for American Indian infants than for white infants. The cradleboard, like other Indigenous innovations, are culturally significant because they are part of traditional knowledge systems. Colonization brought European childrearing practices that largely took the place of practices specific to Indigenous cultures. Elders and Indigenous communities across Canada work to protect and promote cultural traditions to avoid losing them altogether. Some Indigenous peoples continue to use cradleboards because of their practical function, but also because of their cultural significance. There are various words for “cradleboard” in Indigenous languages, including dikinaaganan in Anishinaabemowin, tikinakan in Cree, ao’tópistaanistsi in Siksikáí’powahsin, and kalhu in Oneida. In the past, settlers have incorrectly referred to cradleboards as “papoose.” This is an Algonquian word which loosely translates to “child.”Some women even suspended the cradleboard from a tree branch or structure to act as a sort of hammock or swing, providing the child with amusement. Toys, dreamcatchers and other objects could be attached to the cradleboard to either entertain children or for cultural purposes.

Most cradleboards were decorated with carvings and paintings. The blankets wrapped around infants were also adorned with beadwork and stitching designs. Some Indigenous peoples crafted designs on the back of the boards, and included important images such as clan symbols and other culturally significant emblems and patterns.

Different Indigenous communities had their own designs and styles of cradleboards. For example, the Mohawk tended to make long and narrow cradleboards, while the Seneca preferred a style with side rails. The Oneida made cradleboards using leather strips and wood, while some Ojibwe peoples wrapped their infants in moss bags before securing them to the cradleboard.One of the main functions of the cradleboard was to serve as a baby carrier. Cradleboards gave on-the-go mothers more freedom because they could safely secure babies to their backs. Mothers could also lean the cradleboard up against a tree or structure while they worked. In this position, babies were prevented from crawling or walking toward certain hazards, such as open fires.