Posts Tagged 'babies'

Object: Cradleboard

sverrisdottirannamargret_51021_9646183_Appendix picture 3 Object: Cradleboard Null

Accession Number: E/1952/4/069

Object: An elaborately beaded Kiowa cradleboard.

Location: USA, North American Plains

Date: Unknown; ca. late 19th century, early 20th century.

Materials: Pine Wood, Leather, Beads, Cloth, Paint, Thread, Brass Tacks

Keywords: North American Tribes/Cultures’ Category; Beadwork; Material

Blog post

 

sverrisdottirannamargret_51021_9646181_Appendix picture 1            This cradleboard is 112 centimeters long, 34.5 centimeters wide and 23 centimeters deep. It is made with a frame of two, pointed, pine wood boards attached to one smaller board around 1/3 of the way down the two larger boards (appendix picture 1). The boards are attached to each other with a thick leather thong. Attached with the same thongs is a “canvas sack with rawhide sheet inserted at the head end to form a hood” [1] (appendix picture 2). Attached to the canvas is soft skin that is elaborately decorated and fully covered with white, dark and light blue, pink, red, yellow and green, beads (appendix picture 3 and 4). The only part not decorated with beads is the bottom of the canvas sack where the leather has been dyed ochre and cut to a fringe (appendix picture 5). The inside of the bag has been lined with dotted, red, printed fabric (appendix picture 2). Above the hood there is a leather slab decorated with blue, yellow, red and white beads. “The tips of the slats have crosses made of brass tacks” [1] (appendix picture 6).

sverrisdottirannamargret_51021_9646186_Appendix picture 6            The Kiowa tribe originates from Western Montana, as a nomadic tribe they migrated southwest towards the Rocky Mountains in the late 17th and early 18th century. They later traveled further south towards the southwestern plains in the 19th century. The plains provided to be great hunting ground for buffalo and with large feral horse herds, which encouraged Kiowa development towards an equestrian, bison hunting culture. In 1865 the Little Arkansas Treaty forced the Kiowa and Comanche, a tribe whom they had formed an alliance with after a troubled history, off their homeland in Kansas and New Mexico. Two years later, in 1867, the Medicine Lodge Treaty was signed which established a 2.8-million-acre reservation for the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache tribes in southwestern Oklahoma [2].

sverrisdottirannamargret_51021_9646185_Appendix picture 5The Kiowa cradleboard stems from a longstanding tradition and need of Kiowa women having to keep their hands free to execute everyday tasks, such as preparing hide for clothing and household articles, whilst still having their children near to take care of them [3]. Not only did cradleboards offer women an opportunity to move more freely about, it also served a purpose to both protect and socialize the tribe’s children. The Kiowa cradleboard is strongly constructed, having the top and bottom of the cradle enforced with rawhide, to better keep the shape of the cradle and to provide protection if a cradle was to strike the ground [3]. The reason for the cradleboard being carried on a woman’s back, with the child’s face facing away from the mother, yet at eyelevel, was so the child could get used to being at the same level as the older members of the tribe. This was not only done so the child could physically be closer to the older members of the tribe but also, so it could gain a sense of community and belonging [4].

A child’s importance was not only shown through the level at which it was carried but also through the very elaborate beadwork and decoration of the cradleboard. Looking at the beadwork at the cradleboard researched it is very clear that countless hours would have been spent on making the elaborate patterns and the white background. Not only would the beadwork have taken a long time, but the materials would have to have been traded, with European tradesmen as well as non-local tribes [5]. This would make the cradleboard a time consuming and expensive investment for a family to make.

A cradleboard such as this one displays a great deal of mixture between tradition and innovation. Materials both locally sourced and traded in showcase an assimilation and appreciation of newer materials and how they were adapted to fit the needs of the tribe. The patterns found on the board are part of a longstanding tradition of patterns going down in families, with each beadmaker adding her own personal touch to it. Not only are the patterns traditional but also the color and the division of the patterned plains of the cradleboard.

Research of this cradleboard and comparisons of it to other cradleboards and the traditions around them showcase a deep respect and appreciation for children within the tribe. The importance of the children being socialized within the tribe from a young age and the time and commitment spent to build them a cradle serve as proof for this. The cradleboard also showcases a need to display talented bead workers work among the tribe’s other members and other tribes, as well as a sense of pride in a family tradition of keeping the patterns recognizable from generation to generation [2]. As seen through the Kiowa’s traditional artifacts it is also clear that they were not a people afraid of stagnation, they gladly took up new materials and incorporated them within their traditions, as is seen with how trade impacted the decoration of cradleboard, with more colors becoming available for beads and new fabric options.

 

Recommended readings and videos for more information:

An Evening with Vanessa Jennings: Kiowa Cradleboards, Culture, and Tradition

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yk9A-uQh4EY  (discussion with contemporary Kiowa cradleboard makers at Brown University)

Gifts of Pride and Love: Kiowa and Comanche Cradles by Barbara Hail (book)

Kiowa and Comanche Baby Carriers by M. J. Schneider (scholarly article)

 

((Anna Sverrisdottir))-Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

Sources:

[1] Greene, C. (1952). Item Card. Museum of the University of Oklahoma.

[2] Kratch, B. R. (2009). Kiowa (tribe). Retrieved February 20, 2018, from The Encycopedia of Oklahoma Histroy and Culture: http://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=KI017

[3] Schneider, M. J. (1983). Kiowa and Comanche Baby Carriers. Plains Anthropologist, 305-314.

[4] Hail, B. A. (2000). Gifts of Pride and Love: Kiowa and Comanche Cradles. Bristol, Rhode Island: Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology.

[5] Alden, J. (1999). Contemporary American Indian Beadwork: The Exquisite Art. Millwood, NY: Dolph Publishing Inc.

 

 

 


Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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