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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 4 , 2002 - Issue 60


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Crow Birth Tradition Continues

by John Fitzgerald Billings Gazette Staff
credits:Bob Zellar/Gazette Staff
Gary Johnson holds his daughter Quinley Johnson as his mother Louella Johnson makes final adjustments on a cradleboard made for Gary by his father. Below, is a clipping from the Dec. 3, 1972, Gazette showing Gary Johnson on the cradleboard.
For 29 years, the cradleboard that his father made hung in Gary Johnson's bedroom. He came home from the hospital in the cradleboard as a newborn, and for 29 years, it has been a fixture of his everyday life.

As of Wednesday, the cradleboard is part of his daughter's life, too.

Gary Johnson lives in Billings and works as a police officer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. At 5:30 p.m. Monday, he and his wife, Liisa, welcomed into the world Quinley Josephine Johnson, 7 pounds, 5 ounces.

On Wednesday, Gary's mother, Louella, his older sister, Clarene Walters, and Liisa's mother, Joan Enger, helped Gary and Liisa bundle Quinley in the cradleboard and leave St. Vincent Healthcare - 29 years after Louella and the senior Gary Johnson took baby Gary home from St. Vincent in the cradleboard.

The cradleboard was crafted with traditional Crow beadwork and designs, Louella said. "The geometric design is very much in the Crow style," she said. "When you look at Crow beadwork patterns, you can't tell which is the background beadwork and which is not. It's very three-dimensional."

The cradleboard itself is also built in the traditional Crow style, with a long backboard and leather fringe. Louella, whose grandfather was White Man Runs Him, one of Custer's Crow scouts, said Crow would carry the cradleboard on their backs or hang them from the pommel of the saddle on a horse.

The elder Gary Johnson was en route from an art show in California this week and couldn't participate in bringing his granddaughter home. He is well-known for his beadwork and taught at Rocky Mountain College.

A photo of Louella and Gary with baby Gary in the cradleboard was published in The Gazette on Dec. 3, 1972.

The younger Gary Johnson plans to hang the cradleboard in Quinley's room. He hopes that she will use it to bring her child home someday.

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