Manito Ahbee Festival — Red Willow Cradle Board Teaching

Manito Ahbee Festival — Red Willow Cradle Board Teaching

The Manito Ahbee Festival—which held its Virtual Pow Wow May 21—recently started a series called Youth Education Land Based and Cultural Teachings. Sponsored by Celebrate 150, the teachings aim to educate the next generation so that they might carry indigenous traditions and cultural practices into the future.

One of the teaching videos, which you’ll find below, focuses on Red Willow cradleboards, courtesy of elder Bob Badger. Take a look, and read the transcript below.

Derek Hart:

“Hello. My name is Derek Hart. As manager of education programming for the Manito Ahbee Festival, I recognize the importance of reconnecting our youth to the land. In 2021, the festival is introducing land-based teachings that share cultural practices and ceremonies that have been part of our culture for hundreds of years. In order to sustain our culture, we depend on our youth to carry our traditions and cultural practices into the future. The teachings we are presenting are part of an ongoing project for the festival, and we have partnered with our elders to share these teachings. Throughout the Manito Ahbee Virtual Pow Wow, you'll see mini clips of our land-based and cultural teachings from our elders. Please go to our website,, to view all the land-based and cultural teachings under Youth Education. In celebration of Manitoba's 150th year, the Manito Ahbee Festival would like to say thank you to Celebrate 150 for your continued support as the sponsor for our Manito Ahbee education day land-based and cultural teachings, and also our Golden Age Women and Golden Age Men categories for this year's Manito Ahbee Virtual Pow Wow.”

Bob Badger:

“My name is Bob Badger, [Native language] Friends and relatives, I was asked to come here and bring some traditional teachings by my old people, by my grandpa and my grandma. And I was always raised by my grandpa. His name was Niga Nibines and my [Native language], her name was Ogimawa Sik. And I was raised by them. When I was a little child, I was just a little infant, they entrusted me with some teachings to share with the future. So that's what I do in my everyday life. And I'm a proud member of the Native American Church and I've practiced those ways of worshiping ever since I was a little boy. My grandma took me in there and into the teepee and introduced me to a lot of good, kind people that I've learnt over the years. Some of the things that I'm going to share with you today are very near and dear to me. And I like to share these things with anybody that'll listen, so I want to share them with you today. Friends and relatives, first I want to talk about this plant that we utilize and in my language, we call it [Native language] and it's the Red Willow. And this is a very important plant to us. It's a plant that provides shelter. It provides medicine. It provides tobacco for us. It has many uses. This Red Willow, you usually pick this in the springtime. I harvest it just when it's going to bloom and when all the sap is starting to move through these plants. I was wanting to bring some items here to share with you, and that I could do a brief explanation of these items.

So, first of all, there's this thing that we do with these Red Willows is we kind of shave them. And we don't go too deep. We just go just right up until it's kind of white like that. That's how deep we go. And then we dry these off, these shavings. And then we take them and then we start to pulverize them down into a smaller form. And then from there, when they're nice and dry, then what it does is, it's a mixture for tobacco. And here's some of the tobacco that I fixed last year and there's Red willow in there and then there's other plants in there as well, too. So there's other plants in there that we utilize for tobacco and we call this [Native language].

So this is a tobacco mixture. This was traditional tobacco. I wanted to share that with you today. And then also my great-grandpa, like I said, his name was Niga Nibines. My great-grandpa was a very talented person. And he was a mentor of mine. He was an artist at the same time. He was a fine artist. And he used to make all different kinds of art pieces and different things. And one of the things that he would make is cradleboards, [Native language] He made these cradleboards for all different kinds of expecting mothers. And then this was one of the styles that he used to make out of traditional Red Willow cradleboard [Native language] And I made this myself. I sat there many hours watching my grandpa make these.

These cradleboards have a very deep teaching. They would tie the infant right in here. And this actually is a very safe item for a child to be in because the mothers used to tie them on their back like that. And then the mom would go out in the wilderness and do what she does, she'll harvest fruits and things out in the wilderness. And then if she accidentally fell, maybe she accidentally fell and fell backwards. Then this thing would save the infant in there. So it's a very safe and sturdy item. And these cradleboards have many, many teachings, many teachings. And one of the teachings was that when a child is born, their senses aren't fully matured or something like that. But when they were inside here, when they were in the cradleboard, they would learn how to smell and learn how to see, and they would learn how to taste and feel, all these different senses, and hear. So in the cradleboard, they would finish their senses. And my grandmother used to tell us that these cradleboards used to keep a child safe. Keep a child safe, and then they would learn in here. They would learn the smells of the wilderness. They would learn how their grandpa sounds when he sings. They would learn how their dad sounds when he talks. So there was a lot of learning that happened in here. And then at the same time, there's a sense of learning how to sing in here as well, too, because my grandma used to sing to us when we were in our cradleboards. She would sing songs and she would utilize the language.

So we learnt the language while we were in here. And it was a place of nurturing. And this [Native language], it means you're in the bowl of mother earth. That's what the literal meaning of this word [is] for this cradleboard. And also the Red Willow as well, even that smell of the willow. When I was making this, I was smelling the Red Willow, and I was having memories of my grandpa and I was having memories of my grandma. So when I made this it did bring up a lot of real beautiful memories of my childhood. And even that smell triggered something really good. So I was really happy to come and do this presentation for each and every one of you today. My grandpa used to say that someday, you have to go back to these old ways, because maybe someday in the future, we're not going to have what we have today. So you have to retain this old knowledge. You have to retain these old teachings and that you have to keep these close to your heart for your children and your grandchildren. And my grandpa used to say that this knowledge does not belong to me. It does not belong to you. It belongs to those ones that aren't born yet. Those are the ones that need this. So we're just keeping this for them. This is their knowledge. So I always think about it like that, that the traditional knowledge is not mine, and that I'm just here to hand it over to the next generation so that the unborn could you use this, like that. And even this willow bark, we make tea out of it as well, too. We make tea and we drink that tea and it makes us feel good, makes us feel warm like that, makes us feel happy. And that when we need healing, always go back to the land. That's what my old people used to tell us. Always go back to the land and don't forget who you are and where you come from, like that. So have had that connection to the land. So with that [Native language].”

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