1080 Keewatin St,
Thunder Bay, ON, P7B 6T7

“Teach the children”

— Freda McDonald

As part of Dakobinaawaswaan (Baby in a Cradleboard) we want to create new connections with Indigenous communities across Turtle Island.

We welcome you to share a photo of your tikinagaan or cradleboard along with your special story and family history. We will post the image and whatever information you feel comfortable sharing in an online gathering of cradleboards.

We welcome cradleboards from all over North America. We’re excited to share the legacy and beauty of cradleboards in any condition, shape, and size, including toys and moss bags.

Our intention behind the Community Cradleboards online gathering is to honour and celebrate motherhood, cultural traditions, community, and resurgence.

The organizers of Dakobinaawaswaan look forward to hearing from you.





This letter is both a thank you to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery and a submission to Community Cradleboards. I recently saw the Gallery’s post on social media about the Dakobinaawaswaan Exhibit. I immediately recognized the work of Alice and Patrick Sabourin, or as I called them, Great-granny and Mishomis. As a child, I had a doll cradle much like the one in the picture. From what I understand, Alice would sometimes give one as a gift to the little girls in her family. I played with the cradle as a child and even kept it as a keepsake for awhile but eventually I lost track of it. Over the years, I have regretted not keeping it.

The day I saw the Dakobinaawaswaan post I had just been thinking about my great-grandparents and when the post came up I thought how funny it was – what a coincidence! I made my own social media post to that effect. Within minutes, one of my oldest friends sent me a message asking if Alice was my great-grandmother and telling me that she had a cradle made by her. It was one of two that her mother asked my great-grandmother to make — the other hangs on a wall in England. She said that she would love to return the cradle to me and of course, I accepted her offer immediately. She dropped it off just a couple of hours ago and I am so grateful, to her for her generosity and thoughtfulness. I am also grateful to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery for starting the chain of events that brought this precious piece of family history to me.


This photo from 1981 shows my three-month old baby, Emily, tucked and laced into a cradleboard made jointly by Leonard and Twila Hochstedler —even before they had their own children! They also built a log home for themselves on the outskirts of Red Lake, Ontario, in the years following their move north from the USA. There, Twila cared for her three children – Jared, Llaronda, and Kendall (and later, Hans) – as well as my little one when I returned to work in 1981. Twila’s sewing skills extended to making the shirts, tops and dress her family are wearing in this photo, as well.

Emily appears to be thoughtful about her cradleboard experience. I found it felt firm but fairly comfortable on my back. The cradleboard is very protective, strong, fairly comfortable to wear and most often very lovingly and beautifully designed and decorated.


I have this one which is for a doll. I received it as a child from someone when I was born in Longlac 1969


This is my cradle board or tikinagen as it was referred to. The baby in the photo is me back in 1961. We had a cabin on Nym Lake that was only accessible by trail or boat. My parents carried me in the tikinagen to the cabin. The story of its arrival in my family is as told to me by my mother before she passed away in 1983. Mom was in the hospital in Atikokan in March of 1961 prior to my birth on the 24th. In the next bed was a young Indigenous women also ready to give birth. Her parents were out on a trapline and could not be present. Mom provided some assistance and help to the young mother. As a thank you the family gave us the tikinagen to carry me in. I believe that the family was from Seine River area. I still have the tikinagen.