Gifts of Pride and Love: Kiowa and Comanche Cradles

March 4, 2001–May 27, 2001
New York, NY

Exhibiting beautiful expressions of Kiowa and Comanche bead design, Gifts of Pride and Love: Kiowa and Comanche Cradles features thirty-eight Kiowa and Comanche historical lattice cradles. Two cradles in the show were created especially for the exhibition—one by a Kiowa artist and one by a Comanche artist. Included in the exhibition is a series of videos and an exhibition catalogue, with articles written by descendants of cradle makers examining the role of cradles in reinforcing ethnic identity and emphasizing women's artistic expressions. Barbara A. Hail, deputy director and curator of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Brown University, in collaboration with the Kiowa/Comanche Consulting Committee, curated this major traveling exhibition.

Lattice cradles—known as paih'dodi in Kiowa and waakohno in Comanche—were the preferred type of cradle in the southern Plains among the Kiowa and Comanche from about 1870 to 1910. The lattice cradle is made of a hide, canvas, or wool cover placed over rawhide supports and laced to two narrow pointed boards and two narrower cross pieces, forming a lattice construction. Kiowa cradle covers are normally heavily embroidered with glass beads, while Comanche cradles often are undecorated on the cover, but with paint, incised, and tack decoration on the boards. Many of the elders have expressed their belief that the upright position of the cradleboard helps to "socialize" babies because it puts them at eye level with adults.

A few Kiowa and Comanche specialists continue to make these exquisite and practical works of art. The cradles, which are among the most beautiful expressions of Plains Indian bead design of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, are technically intricate, brilliant in color and design, and practical in function. They have become a symbol of cultural pride and bittersweet nostalgia for contemporary Kiowa and Comanche people.