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Museum Minute: Lakota Tradition of Celebrating Childbirth

Soft Cradle, Lakota (Sioux), Northern Plains, ca. 1890
Plains Indian Museum
Soft Cradle, Lakota (Sioux), Northern Plains, ca. 1890

Hunter Old Elk, the curatorial assistant of the Plains Indian Museum, said when children come into this world, they are a new generation.

"They are a new light and a new soul. And we believe that and so when they’re born, we celebrate in so many ways," said Old Elk.

They celebrate through feasts and create items. One of those items are cradleboards. Old Elk said there is one soft cradleboard from the Lakota tribe in the museum. It was made in preparation for a child that was going to be born. Old Elk said there are many different motifs on the cradleboard.

"You can see a teepee motif, and the motif that represents the four directions. On the feet are the child's footprints where the bottom of their feet would have been," described Old Elk. "And then different symbols in Lakota culture: mountains, Venus, [and] the sun. And so these are all items that help in the childbearing process."

These symbols exist to make sure the child has a significant life.

"This is an item created for during pregnancy and then adorn until the child no longer fits anymore," she said. "And then oftentimes, these cradle boards would be used and passed down from multiple children. And so they were highly revered."

Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.
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