This toy cradleboard is constructed by stretching buckskin over a wooden board, with fringe at the upper back and very bottom. Beadwork is executed using the lazy stitch and is multicolored, featuring yellow, dark and light blues, red, dark and light greens, white beads. The beadwork is geometric; specifically, there is a horseshoe shape at the upper front of the cradleboard with three identical tipi-shapes, one at the top and one on each side, and the two designs of the four directions, separated from the center tipi by the four directions motif. The horseshoe shape has five rows of lazy stitch beadwork on a white background, with the exception of outermost row, which is half yellow (outer) and half dark blue (inner). The tipis are straight-edged, with their bases on the outer edge of the horseshoe. The centers are transparent green glass beads, outlined with a line of metallic/brass gold-colored beads, followed by a line of stepped, or running-triangle design, alternating blue and light green. Each tipi is topped with a forked triangle, green outlined in red. The two four-directions motifs are also identical in color-this motif is formed by a linear square cross (blue) with arrow points at each end (also blue with metallic gold centers), followed by red prongs at each of the four points.
The cradlehood is also fabricated of buckskin with one row of lazy stitch beadwork at the rim (framing the face of the doll). The background is light blue with four squares arranged horizontally. The outer two are translucent red glass beads, and the inner two are metallic gold in color.
The chest band is attached with buckskin thong. It is fringed with conical blue, red and clear glass beads which have been run up the fringe to the top. The beadwork on the chest band has three rows of lazy stitch, white ground, with central geometric design. At either side of center are three dark blue squares arranged vertically, the central square stepped inward. The central design incorporates two large forked triangles on their side, separated by a thin strip of the white ground. They have a translucent green outline, and their interiors, from inner to outer, are blue, white, red, and translucent green. The body flap covering the frontal lacing is also sparsely beaded. There are two outer, vertical, singular rows of lazy stitch in a slanting bar border (white ground with blue and red bars). In the central areas, there are two more vertical slanting bars (light blue background with dark blue and red bars) than end in an open (hollow-centered) triangle or arrow point. There are running triangles in alternating yellow and light blue from this point. At the very bottom of this flap are dark blue beads in single stitch (edging).
There is also a white cotton doll type figure included.
On March 16, 2015 during a NAGPRA collections review, designated tribal representatives from the three Ute tribes informed History Colorado staff that this toy cradleboard was designed to be just like the full sized cradleboard used for children. This was done to help children learn how to care for their own children someday.
Thomas McKee (1854-1930)
Thomas M. McKee was born in Kentucky, but grew up in Nashville, TN. He trained as a photographer, but also often worked as a railroad express messenger and had interests in paleontology. He found his way to Montrose, CO in 1890 to set up a photography studio. He is believed to be one of the first photographers to take X-ray pictures. He introduced western Colorado to moving pictures in 1895.
He photographed Mesa Verde and much of the local mining activity. In the early 1900s he turned his interests to documenting the daily lives of Ute people in photographs. He also began to collect Ute artifacts and amassed one of the largest Ute collections in the United States. He was close friends with Ouray and Chipeta. History Colorado bought his collection in 1948. It consists of 232 items. 150 are beaded Ute pieces. This is our largest Ute collection.