Many Navajo’s still use a traditional cradle board to keep their babies safe and protected. They are made of cedar, laced together with thin strips of leather and feature a wide wooden hoop in the shape of a rainbow over the baby’s head to protect the child. Navajo’s believe the cradle board helps the infant grow to be a strong willed person. A flat cradle board will give the baby a strong, straight back. The cradle board is blessed with corn pollen, prayers, songs and good thoughts for the baby before use. When a child is laced into a cradle board it is said to be “under the rainbow”.
The cradle board is constructed by the father of the infant, who selects cottonwood or pine for the back board. The right back board represents Nahasdzáán (Mother Earth), the left represents Yá’di³hi³ (Father Sky). These two back boards are laced together with buckskin; the upper end of the two back boards is cut and made into a V-shape. There are two small holes near the V-shape that represents Jeeyi’ (Ears).
A piece of oak, shaved thin so that it could be bent into a bow, is attached near the top. It represents Náátsi’íílid (Rainbow), and provides protection for the infants head. Loops are placed along the sides of the cradle board made from buckskins, representing Atsinilt³’ish (Lighting). On the right side a long buck skin is used to lace the loops and tie the baby. This represents shábit³’óó³ (Sun Beam).
At the bottom, a piece of wood is added as a foot rest which represents Nááts’íílid Agodii (small Rainbow). A baby is placed on a blanket in the carrier. With the arms placed down at the baby’s sides, the blanket is then folded snugly around the baby. The buckskin lace is then drawn through the side loops, criss-crossing over the baby, fastening it securely into the carrier. A buckskin or cloth can then be laid over the top to shield the baby from the sun and to protect it from insects.
Sources: Office of Miss Navajo Nation Navajo Tourism Dept.
Condition: Excellent- original condition
Provenance: Acquired from the collection of my family in Texas.