The Salish tribes in western Montana, Idaho and Washington made cradle boards to celebrate newborns. It’s a utilitarian object because it is used as a baby carrier, but they were made for the celebration of the baby. As such, many cradle boards were decorated.
Hunter Old Elk, the curatorial assistant of the Plains Indian Museum, said there is one particular cradle board in the museum’s collection that always stood out to her.
“There is an inscription beaded into the backboard of the cradle, and it says July 1919,” said Old Elk.
The cradle is decorated in the Plateau style with floral beads and fringe. Old Elk said when she came across it she wanted to make sure to remember to put it on display for the summer of 2019.
“[I’m] not sure if [it was for a] celebration of child or recording the significance of July 1919,” said Old Elk. “But that’s the really exciting part that 100 years later we can still try to figure out the mystery of why this artist created this piece and who they were celebrating.”
Museum Minute is a series co-produced with Wyoming Public Media (WPM). A new minute can be heard every Thursday morning at 6:49 a.m. on WPM.