The first Native American cradleboard is often made just before the child is born. The father is very careful in the construction of the cradleboard because of the belief that a mistake in the construction could cause the child to be born impaired. An infant is the most precious of all gifts. Each piece of the Navajo and Cherokee cradleboards has significance.
The two back supports represent Monster Slayer and Child Born of Water, the twin hero gods of the Navajo. Traditionally, the father binds these two slats together by drilling holes in them and lacing them with buckskin. He then constructs the footrest, and this too is attached by drilling and lacing it to the back supports. The footrest represents Mother Earth and is a constant reminder that it is on her that we spend our lives. The back supports and the footrest are traditionally made of juniper; the head protector of oak. The head protector represents the rainbow and is also a very practical form of protection.
The baby is secured to the Native American cradleboard with laced thongs. Buckskin thongs were originally used because it was believed that the child would develop the same attributes as the deer and therefore would be wise, agile and quick. The lacings represent power, lightning and sun rays. Warmth will generate from the child because of these lacings.
The Cherokee and Navajo cradleboards are not only a practical convenience; it also symbolizes the love of the parents for the child.
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