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Oklahoma, Southern Cheyenne
Cradle, about 1900, cotton cloth, glass beads, wood, metal, brass bells and tacks, tanned hide.
Frederick Weygold Collection 1937.68.29

Cradles such as this one were used by the Plains native peoples to carry babies. Women would use the cradle as a safe place to put their babies when they travelled and worked. The cradle would be carried like a backpack and could be leaned against a tree when resting or setting up camp. It was common practice to carry a child in a cradle until they could walk and children spent most of the first two years of their lives in the cradle.

The anticipation of the birth of a baby was a joyous thing and a grandmother or aunt would put a lot of care into making one of these beautifully decorated objects. The creation of the cradle was accompanied by singing, prayers and thanksgiving for the newborn.

This Southern Cheyenne cradle is embellished with elaborate beadwork and the wooden framework is covered with brass bells and tacks. It also contains a rare navel amulet in the shape of a lizard. Navel amulets were made by a close family member of the newborn and contained the umbilical cord. They often took the form of turtles and lizards because those animals lived long lives and were difficult to kill. The amulet would be worn throughout the child’s life. Amulets are very rare because they were typically buried with the body.

 

 

 
 
 


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