Traditional California & Nevada Baby Carrier


Exhibit & Show August 16 to September 21 Exceptional examples by masters of the art of baby carriers, both contemporary and historical

Each tribal style is distinctive and continues in use, to be treasured as family heirlooms. In the Northern Paiute language, hooppu is the term for baby carrier or cradle. The Sam sisters of Ft. McDermitt, Nevada, construct cradles from meticulously scraped willow withes and hand tanned smoked deer hides, skillfully sewn with deer sinews.

The hood decoration (beadwork and yarn) indicates the gender for which the cradle is intended.

Three Maidu Baby Carriers, known as Tutum
Three tutum by Herschel Hedrick (Mountain Maidu)

Elva fashions the hoods – she says scraping the willow takes the longest time in construction – and Josephine the frames. Both sisters work the hides into a buttery texture. The sisters may be alone in their adherence to the use of entirely traditional materials.

In Mountain Maidu, tutum is the term. This distinctive style requires an oak frame, with a bed and sunshade of finely-shaped willow bound by buckskin.

Herschel Hedrick, of Plumas County, distinguishes his work with attention to hood configuration. Remarkably well-sized and polished willow is his unique signature on each piece. He creates examples in full, doll, and miniature versions. Luwana Quitiquit, Pomo of Robinson Rancheria, Lake County, creates a truly traditional sika.

Paiute Boys Babay basket, known as hooppu.
Boy’s hooppu by the Sam Sisters (Northern Paiute)

She fabricates handmade dogbane cordage — untold hours go into the gathering at Clear Lake and preparation of the cordage, over 100 yards are required to secure the peeled and unpeeled willow withes that make up this “sitting cradle”. She may well be the only artist to use her own cordage in well over 100 years, as the use of commercial twines have been universal among the Pomo at least that long.

Additional contemporary cradles are by Theodore Martinez, Atsuge of Modoc County; Clara Charlie, Yokuts/Choinumne, Fresno County; Jennie Dick, Shoshone/Paiute, Inyo County; Justin Farmer, Ipai, San Diego County; Meyo Marrufo, Pomo, Lake County; and Elmira Copeland, Pit River/Maidu, Fernley, Nevada.

Historical examples include fine specimens by Aida Icho, Wukchumne Yokuts;

Three Pomo baby baskets
Three sika by Luwanna Quitiquit (Pomo)

Florence Harrie, Karuk; Clara Harris, Western Mono; Mollie Jackson, Pomo; Myrtle McCoy, Pomo; Ella Johnson, Yurok; Wuzzie George, Northern Paiute; Lizzie Enos, Nisenan; and others. Pacific Western Traders is located in the Historic District of Folsom, open Wednesday Sunday 10:00 – 5:00. For further information contact the storeThree tutum by Herschel Hedrick (Mountain Maidu).

Baby Carriers on Display

Three sika by Luwanna Quitiquit (Pomo)

Three tutum by Herschel Hedrick (Mountain Maidu)

Boy’s hooppu by the Sam Sisters (Northern Paiute)

Courtney Puffer is a writer and art dealer, who runs Pacific Western Traders with his father, Herb, in Folsom, California. Courtney is extremely knowledgeable about native American art and customs. Sadly, Courtney passed away on 17th September, 2008, while on a business trip, but his writing lives on at NewsBlaze.