Willow cradleboard class students work on their projects.
By LORI ANN EDMO
FORT HALL — Local Shoshone-Bannock tribal member women are learning to make willow cradleboards in a class Marietta Cortez is teaching.
The class began the first weekend in March when participants went out and gathered willows, they then shaved the willows – getting the outer layer off and the third class was to put the frame together.
Marietta said she learned how to make the cradleboards from her friend Roger Ike in Nevada. He called her up one day and asked when she wanted to learn? So they went out by the Humboldt River to gather willows and she created her first one that was a doll board with a shade and from that point she did a newborn baby board.
“I always wanted to learn to make cradleboards because my Huutsi made cradleboards,” she said. She recalled the last one her Huutsi made was for her niece in the 70’s and she passed away shortly after. “I always watched her do it,” Marietta continued.
She wants to teach other women to make the cradleboards because she has no one to pass it on to. “I have no daughters and my sons aren’t interested. I was surprised in how many ladies are here – interested in making cradleboards and that’s pretty cool.”
“I’m passing on to whomever wants to learn how to do it and that’s important,” Marietta said.
Bailey Dann adds willows to her frame.
She usually does her cradleboards when the leaves are gone off the trees but she makes them in the summer too when she gets bored. She still needs to learn how to split the willows to use for thread instead of sinew – it would be used to weave inside and out of the frame.
Next the ladies will be learning to make the shade for the willowboard, “They’re a little bit harder,” but then said they’re easy but it will take time. “It’s fun and I like doing the shades.”
Concerning the frame for the board, the willow needs to bent and then it is tied together with bias tape or rags. Some of the ladies were making doll cradleboards while others were making them for babies.
Louise E. Dixey, Tribal Cultural Resource Director, said the Language and Culture Preservation Department asked Marietta to teach the class to make sure it continues in the future, “Learn from those who have a lot to share with out community how to take care of resources we have.”
She said the next class will be making the hoods for the cradleboard then to make digging sticks because the plan is to dig for bitterroot and wild onions in late April and early May.
Marietta is also a kindergarten Shoshone languge instructor at Chief Tahgee Elementary Academy. “I like teaching the kids – they catch on pretty quick.” They know their body parts, commands and most can count up to 50. She has 18 students including 13 boys and five girls. She was taught at home to speak Shoshone from her parents and grandparents.