DescriptionA RARE CROW BEADED HIDE CRADLEBOARD
wood board, tanned elk hide, glass beads, red wool trade cloth, sinew, thread
The Valentine Pasvolsky Collection
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Height: 41 ½ inches, excluding fringe
It's not known specifically when baby carriers with board or slat foundations came into use among Plains Indians. Rectangular board cradles from more easterly tribes likely gave impetus to the genre. Also probable is that with the spread of equestrian culture cradleboards became one of the various object types to be adapted by the people. Prior to the extensive use of horses, sack-like baby carriers, generally termed "moss bags" (for the prevalent use of dried moss to serve as disposable diaper material within) served throughout the respective region. Light weight, easy-to-carry moss bags of tanned leather or fabric are open at the top, closed at the bottom, and lace up the front. Therefore, soiled diaper material is easily removed and replaced simply by unlacing a few lengths of the lacing thong or thongs.
The one-piece, board foundation of the Crow cradleboard typically is furnished with a rounded top and straight sides that taper to a rounded point at the bottom. The corresponding top section of cradleboards of the neighboring tribes-the Blackfeet / Blackfoot, and various Plateau and Columbia River groups, generally splay more above the baby's head, but otherwise their construction is similar. It can be seen that the tanned skin or cloth part of the carrier that swaddles the baby and keeps it secure closely corresponds to the basic moss bag. It seems an easy transition from the earlier, frameless sack form to the carrier form with a solid board or slats foundation. The wooden foundation gives considerably more support for the baby and permits the cradleboard to be leaned against the wall of a dwelling, tree, log, or other convenient object. The cradleboard prevents the baby from crawling or waddling into unsafe places, falling into a lodge fire, straying under horses' hooves, et al. While in the cradleboard, the infant can sleep, watch the goings-on, and if its hands and arms are left free it can play with baubles suspended in front. While in the cradleboard, a baby can even be easily nursed by its mother.
As can be seen on this fine example, two or three tapering, fully-beaded pairs of straps serve to secure the baby within the buckskin sack of full-size Crow cradleboards. The area above is virtually always fully-beaded as well, as is a small triangular panel at the bottom. A row of long buckskin fringes extends along the very top edge of the cradleboard, and hangs freely down the back side. Additionally, short fringes outline the triangle of beadwork at the "toe." A long band of buckskin extending from two points on the back (about at the lower corners of the top beaded panel) permits the mother to carry her child on her back or to hang the cradleboard from a tree branch, peg, or from the pommel of her horse's saddle.
The motifs and bead colors exhibited on this cradleboard wholly exemplify classic Crow beadwork, beginning sometime early / mid 19th Century. What is called "Crow stitch beadwork"- a type of modified "lane stitch," is seen to be the most prevalent beadwork technique. True "lane stitch" and single lines of "applique" beadwork can also be seen along with the occasional other technique.
Today, as well as in former times, when it becomes known that a woman is with child, her mother, mother-in-law, aunt, or a friend might assume the task of creating a cradleboard for the expected baby. Likely a male member of the family or friend creates the wooden foundation, but generally females undertake the creation of the beaded cover, tie bands and other parts. It was not unknown for an expectant couple to receive a number of cradleboards as gifts. Too, a hand-me-down cradleboard used by a child who out grew it might be given the couple.
In overall very good condition. Hide supple and with two faint ink stains (one red, one green) on the back. Beadwork with minor loss. Hide fringes intact. Carrying strap broken, but extant. Red wool trim with wear and extensive loss along the edges of the six "straps" and bottom. Light soiling in the beaded panel at bottom. No apparent restoration.
*Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.
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