Cradleboards or baby carriers were utilized by almost all of the
tribes of North America. Remnants of cradles have been found dating
back to as early as 1200 A.D.   They were made in many different
styles, but all served the same basic purpose to transport or carry an
infant.  Cradles were produced throughout all regions of California and
were made of basketry materials such as willow, reed, tule, or roots.

The two basic forms of cradles in California were a “sitting cradle,” and
“slipper-shaped cradle,” which usually included a hood or sunshade.  
The sitting cradles were scoop-=shaped and usually made with bent
willow rods.  These cradles were made by the Pomo, Wintun, and other
tribes in the central region of California.  The slipper-shaped cradles
were generally made in the Northern areas by the Hupa, Yurok, and
Karok tribes, and were usually made of hazel rod and root fiber.

Among the Paiute tribes in Eastern California, the cradles were usually
skin-covered with a curved hood and decorated with beadwork.  These
cradles resembled those of the Plains and Great Basin areas because
of their close proximity.  Symbolic designs were created on the Paiute
cradleboards to indicate the sex of the baby.

Most infants spent much of their early life in the cradles from the
moment of birth, until they able to walk. Sometimes objects such as
feathers or beads were dangled from the hood of the cradles to
occupy and entertain the infant.  The cradles could be carried in the
arms or by a strap which was passed across the mother’s forehead or
Cradleboard images courtesy of Red Earth Museum
Oklahoma City, Ok

Baskets are one of the oldest forms of storage and transportation of
food and water.   Native grasses, roots and tree shoots were among
the most abundant natural materials available for basket weaving.  
Baskets were originally woven to serve utilitarian purposes in everyday
life such as cooking, gathering and storage. Conical shaped burden
baskets were used to gather food items such as acorns, roots, berries
and seeds. Winnowing baskets were used to separate seeds from
hulls. Large woven baskets were used for cooking and preparation of
food. Other special baskets were woven for gaming and ceremonial
purposes. The women also wove basket “hats.”

There are three basic techniques involved in basket production.  The
earliest known is “twining,” where the “wefts” or moving elements, twist
around the foundation elements or “warps.”  Another technique is
“coiling,” where the base element is coiled and held in place by the
wrapping elements.  The third technique is “plaiting,” where the warps
and wefts are woven over and under each other in a particular
pattern.  The California Indians used the twining and coiling techniques
exclusively and excelled in the production of beautiful baskets.

There is much diversity among California baskets, from the finely
twined baskets and hats of the Northern Hupa, Yurok, Karuk, Shasta,
Modoc and Achumawi tribes, to the coiled baskets of the extreme
Southern “Mission” tribes of the Chumash, Kumeyaay, Serrano,
Cahuilla, Diegueno, Gabrielino, Mohave and Yuma.

In between, the north-central tribes of the Pomo, Maidu, Miwok, and
Wintu used materials such as bear grass, sedge grass, fern stems and
roots, pine roots, willow shoots and redbud. They produced both
twined and coiled basketry including large burden baskets. The
southern tribes utilized materials of juncus rush, willow, deer grass,
sumac and devil’s claw (martynia.)

Another area was that of the Great Basin tribes which included the
Northern Paiute, Washo, Mono, Tubatulabal, Panamint, Kawaisu and
Chemehuevi.  The basin area is situated between multiple mountain
ranges and stretches over 100 miles south into the more arid, desert-
like regions. In northern regions of the Great Basin, materials included
willow, redbud, bracken fern root and sumac.  In southern regions,
desert willow, yucca, grasses, sumac, and martynia were primary
Hupa Basket
ca. 1940s
Hupa CeremonialTray
ca. 1940s
Hupa Woman's Hat
ca. 1920s
Mush Bowl ca. 1930
Maidu Burden Basket
ca. 1920s
Mono Sifting Basket
ca. 1970s
Paiute Conical Basket
ca. 1900
Washoe Conical Basket
ca. 1920s
Western Mono Conical
Basket ca. 1950s
Yokut Cooking Basket
ca. 1930s
Yurok Karuk
ca. 1900-1910
native american art