Cheyenne Cradleboard, ca. 1883
Appraised Value: $40,000 - $60,000
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (2:08)
Director, American Indian and Ethnographic Art
APPRAISER: Have you had this in your family long?
GUEST: I think since the late 1800s, early 1900s. My great-uncle was in the army and traveled around a lot.
APPRAISER: Okay. You know where he got it?
GUEST: I think off a reservation, because it's... it looks like it's been used, but I don't know. I don't know anything more than that.
APPRAISER: Okay. It was made by the Cheyenne, probably the Southern Cheyenne, and that probably would have been when they were in Oklahoma. The Cheyenne made beautiful cradles. They're considered absolutely classic, fully beaded cradles. They were the ones that used the cradleboards, as opposed to the Lakota, who didn't use boards. They would have made a soft cradle. The nice thing about this piece... I magnified the inside, and it's on buffalo hide and then mounted on canvas, which is very typical of the early reservation period. This would have been made probably in about 1880 to '85. The design's a very classic Cheyenne. They have a box-and-border design here. These are stylized thunderbirds, which are very desirable, on each side of the box and border. I particularly like the little hawk bells hanging around the opening. Of course, the only problem with the cradle is its shape. It's kind of misshapen. There are tricks to reshape them. One way of reshaping a cradle like this, believe it or not, is wrapping it in plastic and completely covering the entire cradle, inside and out, with Wonder Bread. The Wonder Bread moistens the cradle overnight. You take the plastic wrapper off, then you stuff the whole thing with paper-- like there was an infant in it.
APPRAISER: And once it dries, it'll settle into that shape and you take the paper out. Because the leather on this cradle is not stiff, the market knows that it can be reshaped, so the value is $40,000 to $60,000 as is. If the hide was stiff, it would be a different matter.
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