- A term now applied to any Indian baby. The word is said to have
come from the Narraganset Indian infant's way of saying papu for
father. Students of languages have found that the first words of
babies throughout the world ar much like the English "papa" and "mama."
The Narraganset added es meaning
"little" to the word papu, and thus obtained papues.
The white man pronounced it "papoose" and the word has been adopted by
practically all Indian tribes today.
The papoose of almost all tribes spent
its younger days in some form of cradle. In Alaska these cradles
were made of bark and decorated with quillwork. However, in winter
the mother might carry the baby in the hood of her fur parka. And
in some tribes the infant was gathered in a blanket and slung on the mother's
on the Plains, especially among the Kiowa,
Comanche, and others, cradles made of dressed skins were lashed on a framework
or lattice of flat sticks. Many tribes borrowed this idea.
The cradle was highly decorated and the frame was supported and carried
on the mother's back or swung from the pommel of a saddle by bands attached
to the rear of the lattice frame.
Among the Algonquian and the Iroquoian
tribes of the East, a thin long board took the place of the latticework
of the Plains. On the Pacific Coast basket cradles and even dugout
cradles - made after the fashion of dugout canoes - were used. In
tribes that practiced head flattening, cradles were made so that there
was continuous pressure on the infant's skull.
In many tribes scented herbs were placed
in the infant's bedding. In others rattles of various kinds dangled
from the cradle to amuse and occupy the child. A new cradle was made
for each child among some Indians, but the Pueblo considered the cradle
a sacred object and it was handed down in the family. Every time
a new child occupied it a notch was cut in the frame.
Indians in general were fond of children.
They rarely killed a captive child of another tribe or even a white one,
but adopted it into the tribe. They loved their own and the grief
of a mother on the death of her infant was intensely pathetic.
Indian girls of all tribes played with
dolls and cradles.
within this Site
][ Captives ][ Quillwork
][ Matachias ]