Photo -- See Caption Below

c 1900
Cradleboards are still used to carry an infant on the mother’s back. This cradleboard is made of wood covered with buckskin and mimic the human body in a variety of ways. The symmetry of board represents the choice to do good or bad and symbolizes the womb of the mother. The tear-shaped board also keeps the baby’s back straight as its bones develop. The soft deerskin mimics the warmth of a mother’s embrace. The comfort of buckskin cannot be surpassed as it stretches, breathes, and keeps baby warm and clean. The baby's head is covered by a hood, made of soft velveteen.

This board is decorated with geometric elements. Cradleboards often had a small pouch that held the umbilical cord. The only time the umbilical cord could be removed from the pouch, was if the child faced a life-threatening illness. The Medicine man or woman would use it in their healing.

When the baby is in the cradleboard, it looks out to the world and they learn by watching; developing the skill of observation, a necessity for survival. Living primarily outdoors, traveling by foot, canoe or horse, the babies and toddlers were securely attached to their mother’s back, the horse, or even in a bush while the mother works. This “womb” was only carried by the women—grandmothers, mothers, aunts, older sisters.
Deer skin, cotton, wool, cedar root. H 104.0, W 41.0 cm
Nez Perce National Historical Park, NEPE 57