Coastal Indian Cradleboard

Sacagawea carrying Jean-Baptist in a stiff cradleboard on her back

Photo by J. Agee

Sakakawea carrying Jean-Baptiste a soft blanket sling on her back

Photo by J. Agee

The board hanging on the wall in the captains' quarters is of the type used by Northwest Coast Indians such as the Chinooks and Clatsops to shape the heads of their infants. William Clark drew a sketch of one.

The rigid cradleboard shown in the sculpture at left, used by many Indian women, with the infant facing to the rear, has become a stereotype. However, Hidatsa Indian women, from whom Sakakawea (or Sacagawea) would have learned mothering, commonly carried their babies in a shawl or blanket slung over the shoulder, facing forward, as in the photo at right.1

1. See also Sacagawea's Story: The Faces of Sacagawea