C is for Cradle Boards & Cradle Baskets

Helbing Collection A-Z is a continuing feature of our blog. Each week for 26 weeks, I will highlight an item or items from our Helbing Collection of Native American Arts and Crafts.
I had a difficult time with the letter C. I couldn’t decide which cradle board to show, so I’ll show you several.

We have 2 actual baby sized cradle baskets in the collection. Both are from the Hoopa in northern California. Here are Cleora Helbing’s notes on the larger of the two: “This natural-colored basket, 26 inches long and 12 inches wide, was used to carry the Indian baby, either by cradling the basket with the baby tied into it, in the arms or on the back, or, when the mother was working, by hanging baby and basket on a tree. Notice the loop in the handle which allows the basket to be hung. The basket was made from willow, after the bark had been stripped with the teeth. This basket carried the three sons of Delia Carpenter, a Hoopa. Calvin, one of the sons, was born in 1920. The basket was made by his grandmother, Kity Spot. She was a dear old soul.” The baby would be strapped in securely using the cotton ties in a sitting position, with his bottom on the open weave section on the bottom of the basket and with his legs dangling over the edge.  The open weave section at the bottom of the basket could be filled with absorbent plant materials.

We also have several doll-sized cradle boards in the collection. One of my favorite is this beaded cradle board from the plains region of Oklahoma. According to Cleora: “This type of Papoose or Cradle board was used by the Kiowa, Comanche, Apache and Arapaho Indians of Oklahoma and New Mexico. This model is 14 and one-half inches long. The doll representing the Indian baby is laced tightly into a conical-shaped cloth basket, made rigid by heavy beady done in designs with blue, lavender, red, and white beads. This basket is attached to two flat boards, shaped like skis. These are painted on the pointed ends with geometric figures.”
A note on the back reads:  “Made by Birdie Toppet  Age 13 Kiowa Indian. Teacher – Mrs. Mary Inkanish” Mary Inkanish made the buckskin dress for Cleora.

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