Carrying on Traditions
Utah’s history of migration spans centuries, beginning with the Indian tribes that traveled around the land that would become Utah and its surrounding areas.
The Ute Mountain Ute tribe, one of the three tribes of the Ute Nation, is one of these groups that for hundreds of years has traveled and lived on the land that is now present day Utah.
Their reservation is located in the well known Four Corners area, and part of it is in Utah. Their reservation includes land in southwestern Colorado, southeastern Utah and northern New Mexico. There are two communities that make up the tribe, one in their headquarters in Towaoc, Colorado, and a smaller one in White Mesa, Utah.
The Ute tribes along with other tribes all over North America used cradleboards similar to this one to carry their babies. A baby would be wrapped up and secured on a cushion in the cradle, creating a place for them to peacefully sleep and to be safely carried around. This let the infants be close to their mothers, while also allowing women to continue working while the baby slept on their back. Although these cradles were practical, there was also an art to creating them, an art that the most talented artisans specialized in.
The artist of this detailed cradleboard, Patty Dutchie, belonged to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and grew up in Towaoc, Colorado, before joining her husband to live with the community in White Mesa, Utah.
Dutchie learned the traditional crafts of her tribe as a young girl while watching her mother. Her favorite art form was these cradleboards, and she became well known for them.
With their tall backboards and willow sun shades, Dutchie’s cradles resemble old-style Ute ones. Through her art, Dutchie carried on the traditions of her ancestors and helped ensure that they would continue to live on.
The Folk Arts Collection contains many pieces like this that help us understand the traditions of the various groups of people in Utah.
Written by Michelle James