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There are many types of baby carriers, most are manufactured and sold on the major market. But in our Indian Country, we have our traditional baby boards. Today you are viewing a Traditional Native American baby board, which is handcrafted and is considered an art. The baby board continues to be used today, just as we have used them from time immemorial, because they serve to provide security and protection to our babies. The security given to our babies is provided through the style in which they are wrapped and tied into the baby board. The baby is given the same security as that of being held and cuddled when they are wrapped and tied into the baby board. Past generations used a donut shaped head support and a cylinder shaped leg support, which was placed inside the baby board underneath the baby. The donut shaped head support was positioned underneath the baby's head, which prevented the head from becoming flat and gave support to the head and neck. The cylinder shape leg support was placed underneath the legs, where the knees bend to prevent cramping. The hoop serves three purposes. 1, It provides protection from injury if the baby board was to accidentally fall; 2. Wild rose wood is used to protect the baby from bad spirits; 3. It is usually beaded and decorated which includes a small pouch that contains the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord is kept to protect the baby’s spirit from harm. In addition, shells and/or beads that fringe the hoop tend to create a soothing and quieting effect when gently rocked. The cushion used for the bedding is filled with poly fill to provide ultimate comfort. In the past baby boards were not made with poly fill, therefore the donut and cylinder pillows were crucial for the baby’s comfort. The flat board is hand made compressed wood. The flat bard provides the baby with better posture. In the past the board was made from cedar or birch wood. The styles of baby boards have evolved throughout the generations. Historically, there was very little bedding used in the baby boards. Today, material used to make the baby board is readily available and less costly. In the past, you made do with what you had available. The handcrafted Native American baby board is a work of fine art. The skills to make a baby board is handed down from generation to generation.
Native American Baby Boards
Baby in baby (cradle) board held by woman ready to go root digging can be viewed at The Museum At Warm Springs. Handmade by Maria Godines - Mnuwai Ayat
Some of the most valued currency that was used for trade: Dentalium shell, cowry money shell and beads. These items along with brain tanned deer and elk buckskin are still highly valued and used for traditional ceremony, pow-wow dance and often modern attire.
The traditional patlaapa (hat) is made from corn husks or cedar roots. The patlaapa is made by hand.
The materials needed to make the patlaapa are gathered and prepared. It takes several days to make the patlaapa. It takes artistic vision to design a woven pattern with only your mind and not having a piece of paper to pattern it. The twinning can take a toll ones fingers and wrists, due to the mass hours it takes to weave.
To own a patlaapa that is made of ceder root or corn husk is a treasure that a price tag cannot hold.
In the past the patlaapa was worn to protect the forehead from the strap holding the cradle board on the back, as well to be protected from the elements.
Today the patlaapa is mostly worn during ceremonial events and pow-wows. It takes mastery skills to make these.
The contemporary modern patlaapa is made from yarn, fabric, buckskin or raffia and may be adorned with beads and/or appliques.
Master weavers who teach may be found here in Warm Springs, Oregon as well as other river tribes.