The role of women in Native American tribes is often misunderstood or misconstrued in the present day. Modern people have a hard time picturing just how rough of a life these women led. When the men went off to hunt, the women were left alone to deal with the harsh realities of life. They had to take care of those in the tribe, cook the food, take care of the children and gather crops. They had to find ways to make life easier, which led to the advent of the baby papoose.
The baby papoose is sometimes known as a cradle board and gave the mother an easy way to do her daily routine, while still taking care of the child. The carrier attached to the woman's back or slipped over her shoulders, with the child fitting directly inside. Different tribes used different types of materials to create these carriers, but the same basic ideas were used.
Resources on Native American baby carriers include:
- Navajo Cradle Board : explains how the Navajo carried their children.
- Spencer Museum of Art : shows an actual papoose carrier used by Native American people.
- Apache Indian Cradle Board : offers a photograph and short history of the cradle board used by Apache tribes.
- Navajo Baby Cradle Board : retailer of modern day board created in the same tradition as the older ones.
The baby papoose was an oval shaped sling, made from young tree branches that were bent into shape. Small wooden slats then attached to this basic frame and they covered those with a type of fabric or soft material. They topped off the carrier with a shade that kept the sun off the baby. Tribes that had access to animal skins or leather wrapped pieces of those skins around the carrier as a way to keep the baby safe. The child was strapped into the carrier before it was placed on the mother's back.
The baby papoose is still used at times in the modern world. The newer models look more like a sling and less like the rigid carrier used by Native American tribes. It still keeps the baby safe and is worn on the back, but it looks a little different. These carriers allow busy mothers the chance to keep their child safe and with them, even when they go about their daily life.