tikéˀs (Cradleboard) Nez Perce

A teardrop shaped cradleboard with buckskin and decorated with glass beads, dentalium shells with elk teeth attached to top fringe. Made circa 1846 and is part of the Wetxuuwíitin’ Collection

The teardrop shaped wooden board is covered with buckskin and decorated with black, white, and red glass beads, dentalium shells with elk teeth attached to top fringe. ​There are several holes in the bucksin indicating wear.

After the purchase of the Spalding Allen Collection by the Nez Perce Tribe, on May 30, 1996, Nez Perce National Historic Park curator, Bob Chenoweth flew to Columbus Ohio to hand-carry the deer skin cradleboard back to the Nez Perce. The cradleboard returned to Idaho after a seven-hour flight. Upon seeing the cradleboard, Chenoweth immediately noticed that it had the same design elements as one of the dresses in the Spalding-Allen Collection (NEPE 8758). Chenoweth remarked, “it was instantly clear the person who made the dress also made the cradleboard… it has a lot of touches, those extra little things you'd do for your baby to show your pride.” Tots Tatoken, June, 1996

Cultural Narrative: 

Josiah Pinkham cradle board interpretation:

"The other thing is that the cradle board is particularly small. It’s just really, really small. And it just looks unusually small is what I’m saying. Now comparatively, there’s a cradle board that was found amongst the Crow that is from a similar time period. And it is approximately the same size. And so what I’m wondering is did they make two of them, one for when the baby was newborn and then another when they were bigger? Or did they just transition the baby out of the baby board and start tending to it sans board, I guess. I don't know. "

Traditional Knowledge: 

Nakia Williamson-Cloud on the connection between the items in the Wetxuuwíitin’ Collection, the elders, and the land:


I want my son and I want my nieces and nephews and someday grandchildren to understand what these mean to us. And that they have a deep meaning to us because of what they represent. And to respect them and not to trivialize them in any way. 

As we’re told in our way of life, we’re taking care of our life as Indian people. And that’s how we do it is in a lot of these ways that connect us back to the land. That’s the way we take care of ourselves. And it’s a continual maintenance that we have to do. And it’s the work we have to put forth and the effort we have to put forth. And never forget it. And always hold onto it. And we have to keep that knowledge that ties us to this land. And that’s so important. Without that, like I said, you know, everything does not really matter as much.

Because these are, all the things that we have within our culture are just basically devices and ways in which we connect ourselves to our elders and to our land. And they’re reminders, constant reminders to us of our true value system and identity as Nez Perce people. And so when you surround yourself with these things and it continues to reinforces and reminds you on a day to day basis, you know, who you are and what you represent. And that’s really important. So that’s what a lot of these do for us is they remind us of the old people.

So they used to say this about how to be. Or they would say this of how to hunt. Or they would say this was the proper time to dig roots. It just allows you a way into, to tap in and to remember that knowledge. 
And it’s knowledge that can never really truly be written down and encapsulated in a book or in any written form. And that’s what our old people talked about. It’s something you have to live and it has to be inside your heart. Because you can write it down, and write things down. And that’s good in a way. But unless you live it and believe it and do it, and it’s a part of you, when you write something down, it automatically limits it. Because it’s only limited to what’s on the written page. And there’s so much more to a lot of these things that our people understood. And so that’s a part of it. These are part of the ways in which we access that knowledge and access that type of understanding. And they’re reminders to us about the value system of our elders and everything else that are important to maintaining our identity."