The Milwaukee Public Museum’s collection of cradleboards contains examples of nearly every regional style in the United States as well as parts of southern Canada and northern Mexico. A majority of the collection, 25 cradles, is affiliated with tribes from the Northeast. Other large collections from tribes of the Southwest and California were obtained on expedition by Milwaukee Public Museum curators.
While cradles are usually easily recognized as part of a regional tradition, the tribe from which one originated may no longer live in the same area. For example, the Mexican Kickapoo, Iowa, and Osage cradles are distinctly Northeastern in their construction, but the tribes are located in northern Mexico and the Southeastern Plains. These groups are considered in the regional section with which they share the most cultural similarities, and their differences will be addressed. The movement of tribes from one region to another was not uncommon, so a particular tribe’s culture may be influenced by multiple regional styles. For example, cradle styles of the Plains, Northwest Coast, and California converge in the Great Basin and Plateau areas.