Cradleboard History

The Cradleboard Teaching Project was born out of my own experiences as a teacher who has traveled widely, thanks to a concert career. When I had a concert in New York, afterwards I would go to the Mohawk Reservation out in the country upstate. If I had a concert in Sydney, Australia, afterwards I'd spend time with Aboriginal people. This became a way of life for me, and I'm grateful for all the good people who taught me across cultural borders.

As a teacher who was also a songwriter, I had brought Indian issues to the attention of my own generation through my records. Then in the late 70s I became a semi-regular on "Sesame Street" for 5 years. I wanted little kids and their caretakers to know one thing above all: that Indians Exist. We are not all dead and stuffed in museums like the dinosaurs.

With the help of Big Bird and Oscar and friends, we put out this simple message of reality three times a day to the children of 73 countries of the world, providing them with positive realities, before racism and stereotyping ever had a chance to set in. Buffy at Sesame Street

When my own son was in grade five, his teacher, Ms. Adrya Siebring, asked for my help in presenting a better Indian Studies Unit to her class. We looked at the available teaching materials and they failed! Lots of dead text about dead Indians. I wrote up a simple corrected version of the encyclopedia material. Each year I continued to upgrade and expand this little Indian Unit.

In 1984, I got my first Macintosh computer. I'd already been using computers for recording music and scoring movies for several years, so I had a bit of a head start. By the early 90s I was using my computers for online interaction and making new friends. I thought it would be interesting to connect a First Nations (Indian) school in Canada with Adrya Siebring's Island School in Hawaii. The kids exchanged letters and boxes of local goodies and information about their communities, their schools, and most of all themselves. They also had their first experience with email and Live Chat on a computer, which was very new at the time.

Since that time, I continued to develop the Cradleboard idea at several informal sites. In October of 1996, we received a two year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan, and since that time have modeled the Cradleboard Teaching Project in Mohawk, Cree, Ojibwe, Menominee, Coeur d´Alene, Navajo, Quinnault, Hawaiian, and Apache communities in eleven states, each of whom have partnered with a non-Indian class of the same grade level.

We have also created accurate, enriching core curriculum units for Elementary, Middle, and High School grades in the disciplines of Geography, History, Social Studies, Music and Science. Our first interactive multimedia curriculum CD, "Science: Through Native American Eyes", is now available to our participating teachers and users everywhere.

We provided curriculum and cross cultural connectivity to hundreds of children, and sponsored several face to face real world meetings between partnering classes of students in grades 5-12, together with their teachers and representatives from four foreign countries to learn Cradleboard Methods for maximizing cross cultural relations.

We have since received further support from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, as well as from the Ford Foundation, the Lyn and Norman Lear Family Foundation, the Herb Alpert Foundation, the Nihewan Foundation, and numerous private foundations and individuals through whose faith and generosity we are able to continue.

The Cradleboard Teaching Project is a continual learning process, and a lot of fun too: improving the curriculum, and learning from fellow educators at teachers conferences, in classrooms, and online, as machines become better, easier to use, and more available to teachers and children. But Cradleboard is not about the technology. Cradleboard is about helping children through cross-cultural communication, whatever means they have to get to know one another.

Buffy Sainte-Marie

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