Mitchell Museum
of the American Indian

3001 Central Street
Evanston, IL 60201



A Mother's Touch: The Cradleboard Collection

of the Mitchell Museum

April 5 to August 31, 2009


Cradleboards — distinctively shaped infant carriers used by generations of Native Americans from almost every region — are the subject of “A Mother’s Touch: The Cradleboard Collection of the Mitchell Museum,” an exhibit April 5 to August 31, 2009. The exhibit consists of 11 cradleboards of Apache, Athabascan, Ojibwe, Paiute, Potawatomi, Ute, and Washo tribal origins, created from the late 19th to the late 20th century.

Cradleboards are worn on the mother’s back, suspended from straps, allowing her to move about while her hands remain free for chores. A cradleboard could also be hung on a saddle or travois for travel. Besides safely transporting babies, they also serve as secure, upright stationary cribs when leaned against a supporting structure. They are also objects of beauty and personal expression.

A cradleboard typically has a flat or curved backboard, oval or rectangular in shape, made of wooden slats or tree branches or woven from reeds or other materials. The baby is tucked into an animal skin or cloth pouch fastened to the board. Soft materials were used for cushioning and diapers. A rigid protective arch or hoop, similar to an automotive roll bar, extends out from the board to protect the baby’s face and head.

While cradleboards have been used throughout most of Native America, designs and materials vary by location. They might be decorated with beadwork, quill work, weavings, woodwork, or cloth. Sacred symbols and colors are intended to bring good luck to the child. An unusual example in the exhibit is an Athabascan birch bark cradleboard, which looks more like a cradle itself than a device to be strapped to the mother’s back.


Exhibits are funded in part through a generous grant from the




Tuesday – Saturday:
10am – 5pm
Thursday: 10am – 8pm
Sunday: 12pm – 4pm

Adults: $5.00
Children, students, teachers, seniors: $3.00 
Mitchell Members: FREE
Tribal Members: FREE



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