NAWDIM & STORIES OF THE CRADLEBOARD
Eight years ago, a group of American Indian and Alaska Native women gathered in a room full of sewing machines to tackle Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This was the first Infant Cradleboard Class sponsored by the Native American Women’s Dialog on Infant Mortality (NAWDIM).
Cradleboards and SIDS? Research resoundingly confirms that single most effective way we can reduce the risk of SIDS is to put our babies to sleep on their backs. Cradleboards are a powerful affirmation that traditional Native wisdom lies at the core of our survival.
NAWDIM began ten years ago, when a group of Native women met out of concern about infant mortality rates. Native babies, according to statistics from Public Health Seattle-King County, die in their first year at a rate 3 times higher than other babies. We have developed good, collaborative relationships over the years with health care providers, public health professionals and among community members who are concerned about our future generations.
Through eight years of NAWDIM Cradleboard Classes, Indian Country here in the Puget Sound region is richer for the creation of more than 350 cradleboards. During the classes, we use a traditional talking circle to share stories about babies and families, self-care, and the challenges we face in our lives. We laugh, cry and connect with one another through these awesome Native traditions.
Storytelling is another great, powerful Native tradition. Stories can teach and stories can heal. This summer, NAWDIM is seeking to weave a web of support around the Native moms and families through stories about cradleboards. Some women who attend our classes have no experience with cradleboards, others have raised their babies in them, or were themselves raised on a board. We have had the privilege of hearing these stories over the years, in small groups. We feel that it’s time to share more broadly, and support from the Washington Women’s Foundation make this work possible.
We know that the high Native infant mortality rate is directly related to social isolation and multiple chronic stressors – Indian women having babies in far from their families, isolated from other Indian people, living very stressful lives. In every class, we hear of family members who’ve lost babies to SIDS. We believe that life stories can lead to healing, stronger support networks, and more awareness about the very best ways we can keep our babies safe.
OUR CALL TO COMMUNITY: Do you have stories to share? Photos, memories? These are the ways to connect with us:
- Email NAWDIM@gmail.com
- Get on our email list at the address above, and watch for community gatherings later this summer.
Plans are underway to record, collect and share stories. With permission, we will share these stories at cradleboard classes, at community gatherings and future pow wows.
Image from akseabird on Flickr