Navajo Women with Babies


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Unknown Unknown inn807pa.jpg IN-N-807 B&W 1504.0807.0001 inn807pa Print 4x6 Historic Photographs 20210414 Reproduction requires permission. Digital images property of SHM Library & Archives

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Navajo women with babies in cradleboards. 

Navajo cradleboards are made with a Ponderosa pine frame with buckskin laces looped through the frame. Whatever materials are used to make cradleboards, they share certain structural elements. Cradleboards are built with a broad, firm protective frame for the infant's spine.

The back board signifies Mother Earth or Nahasdzaan, while the left board signifies Father Sky or Ya dilhil. The two boards are laced as one with buckskin, the upper end of the board is engraved to form a V-shape. Close to this V-shape are two tiny holes which signify Ears or Jeeyi’.

There is an oak that is thinly cut so as to twist into a bow and is linked close to the top. This signifies rainbow or Naatsi iilid, and gives security for the child’s head. There are loops made of buckskins attached to the sides of the board that represent Lighting or Atsiniltl’ish. On the right part of the board is a long buckskin tie that is utilized to tie these loops and lace the infant. This signifies Sun Beam or shabitl ool.

There is a wood situated at the base of the board that serves as a foot rest which signifys small rainbow or Naats iilid.

The infant is positioned on a mantle in the cradle board. The arms are put down at the sides, and then the mantle is folded warmly around the infant. Then the buckskin tie is drawn in the side loop, criss-crossing the whole body of the infant, fastening it safely into the cradle board. A cloth of buckskin can then be place on the top to secure the infant from UV rays and from insects as well.

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