Strengthening Identity: The Cradleboard Project instills history and tradition


strengthening identity- the cradleboard project instills history and tradition 2-web.jpgWhen

Gavino Limon was 14 months-old, he began his professional career as a champion Grass

Dancer, a mere five months after he began walking. Limon is now six years-old

and continues his love for dancing as a member of the world famous Native Pride

Dance Troop. His parents, Douglas and Rachel Limon believe that having him in a

cradleboard during his infancy had a tremendous influence on his advanced large

motor skills

Traditionally, tribal people in

Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas used cradleboards for hundreds of years to

carry their children. Using whatever materials within the environment,

cradleboards were assembled with much care. Depending on the community,

cradleboards can be constructed with cedar, oak, cattail, buckskin, animal fur

and moss. In essence, a flat wooden board is the base, a frame and a headpiece,

sometimes to attach toys. The baby is wrapped tightly to the board, allowing

them to feel secure and also sit upright to interact with their world.  In this way, babies became accustomed to the

daily activities of their tribe. The cradleboard was the first step in

traditional Indigenous education.

Cradleboard advocates assert that

children who have been in a cradleboard have a developmental advantage. Babies

are able to observe their families and socially interact with their relatives.

Parents will often claim that a baby’s leg and neck muscles are strengthened

earlier than an infant who has not been placed in a cradleboard.

These benefits prompted the

Limons to have their baby in a cradleboard. Before their son was born, Doug and

Rachel Limon wanted to have their new baby in a cradleboard, but had difficulty

finding anyone in the community that could help teach them to make one. After

finding an elder in Leech Lake to help them, they had Gavino in the cradleboard.


sparked collective memories within the Native community in Minneapolis. “People

began to share their stories with me when they saw the cradleboard,” Doug Limon

said. “Seeing the cradleboard reminded our people of traditional values and I

thought this was a perfect way to bring our ways back.” This was the birth of

the Cradleboard Project. strengthening identity- the cradleboard project instills history and tradition 1-web.jpg

Since that time, husband and wife

team, Doug and Rachel Limon have been sharing this knowledge with the Twin

Cities Native American community. With financial assistance from the Minnesota

State Arts Board, the Limons have been able to offer workshops to actually make

cradleboards to the community for a very minimal price. Rachel Limon, a

professional photographer and artist says, “We want to share this knowledge

with the community, so in return, we ask that those who participate share what

they’ve learned with others as well.”

The materials alone for these

workshops cost well beyond what is asked of participants. To keep this

tradition alive, the Limon’s have created a Kickstarter campaign to cover the

costs of offering cradleboard making workshops for community members. Pledges

are important to this work and will be accepted until Monday, April 20, 2015. Pledges

are accepted at:

The next workshop will be offered

on a first come first served basis. Workshop dates are Saturday, May 30 and

June 20. Participants can reserve their place by contacting Rachel Limon at

PHOTOS: Cradleboards made during one of the cradleboard workshops (top). 

Rachel Limon helps a student with her cradleboard (above).