Tikinagan – Moss Bags
A newborn is very powerful, the greatest of all teachers. They can sense things that are not the norm, and let you know. And they continue to teach us as they grow. For example, they will crawl, stand, fall down and get up again. You don’t just get up once and walk forever, you will fall, and you will have to get up again and again. – Elder Mary Lee
Prior to European contact, traditional parenting methods and tools, such as the medicine wheel, storytelling and song, and the importance of kinship were integral aspects of First Nations family life. Moss bags and cradleboards were also a vital part of child-rearing in Aboriginal communities. They were special items that were both useful and practical. Babies were wrapped in a moss bag and securely bound to a thin cushioned board usually made of pine or cedar wood, and laced with thin straps of leather. Boards were smudged with prayers, songs and good thoughts for the baby. They were then either carried in parents’ arms, worn on mother’s back during travel, propped up on the ground like a baby chair or secured to a sled for longer journeys.
The benefits of moss bags and cradleboards included longer sleeps, since the baby wouldn’t jerk and wake up; keeping the child’s backbone and legs straight, further strengthening the neck muscles; sharpening their gifts of vision, hearing and awareness; and being stimulated by their environment and family. Babies were allowed to see the world as mom and dad saw it, but since they were also kept close to their mothers, they felt secure and safe,
Living a traditional lifestyle in contemporary society is sometimes a challenge; however, today many First Nations across Cananda are revitalizing the use of the traditional cradle board. By doing this, empowering each other and our children with knowledge of our culture, language, and history, we can strengthen our values and our families. Also, as we preserve and retain our cultural strength we become better equipped to live with a challenging and ever changing world.
Some content for this article was retrieved from the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute website on June 3, 2015 www.skprevention.ca.