The Peoples Centers latest Cradleboard
Exhibit recounts cultural uses of the carrier, from its historical
origin to its role in modern life. I think it really highlights
the craftsmanship our people still have today, said the exhibits
coordinator Marie Torosian.
Cradleboards are traditional infant carriers that are constructed
of a sturdy wooden frame. Infants are securely laced and swaddled
within the frame in a buckskin or cloth bag. Torosian said that
moss was used to line the bag and absorb bodily fluids-much like
Some designs even allowed for cradleboards to be suspended or
propped against surfaces like trees or large rocks. This assured
the child would remain in eye view and freed up their caretakers
time for work without disrupting the bonding process.
Aside from its functional uses, cradleboards had physical and
mental benefits. Torosian said the swaddling bag provided security,
much like a mothers womb, but allowed for observation and
stimulation of the babys surroundings. Some designs even provided
spinal support or protection from the elements. As the child grew,
the cradleboard taught restraint and patience.
has been researching and contracting cradleboards from all over
the US and Canada for the 23 piece display. While most of the items
were submitted locally, visitors have an opportunity to see cradleboard
models from the Apache and Hopi tribes as well.
Cradleboards were used by tribes all over and throughout
my research it was interesting to see all the similarities,
said Torosian. Tribes had different designs because of their
climate, but we all used similar fibers to make the cradleboards.
Torosians inspiration for the display came from an overwhelming
interest of callers asking the center to host classes on how to
make them. A while back, cradleboards were hung on the wall
for decoration but now youre seeing where people have decided
to take it off the wall and use it. Its not a wall display,
its who we are, said Torosian.
Most of the cradleboards featured in the exhibit were used and
include photos of its pint size owners. I really wanted to
include photos of the cradleboards being used because each one has
its own story, said Torosian.
One of the stories includes a cradleboard Bill Swaney made for
his first-born daughter. Aside from carrying his daughter, the board
and its detailed beadwork won blue ribbons in last years Missoula