A swashbuckler set in the West Indies of the early 19th Century, THE WITCH FROM THE SEA is a love story, a coming-of-age adventure and an eccentric comedy of manners about a woman who runs with the pirates to free herself from the conventional "rules" of gender, race and class.

Tory Lightfoot, an orphan of mixed white and Mohawk blood, flees the stifling gentility of 1823 Boston for the freedom of the open sea. But the merchant ship on which she stows away is boarded by pirates off the coast of Cuba, and Tory is forced to join the pirate crew to save her life. Making herself useful as both log-keeper and spy, she begins to earn a measure of the independence she craves. But fate, fever and the relentless U. S. Navy West Indian Squadron close in, and Tory must risk her hard-won freedom to save the man she loves.
"I highly recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction."
— The Historical Novel Society Review
"The Witch From The Sea is that rare creation, an historical romance with guts as well as glamour. Wild-spirited Tory is an irresistible character."
— Nautical historian Joan Druett (She-Captains; Hen Frigates)
"I am in love with this book. A+."
Reading Rocks / YA Fiction Review

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


The cradleboard was more than just a personal baby buggy to the Native American tribes. It was a piece of native artwork, as well as an important conduit of culture that was handed down through the generations.

California Indian cradleboards were woven out of reeds and wrapped in hides. Cradleboards of the Southwest and Plains tribes were made of wicker rods and canvas with lots of intricate beadwork.

But the Iroquois of the Eastern Woodlands of North America  made their cradleboards from the plentiful wood, especially sturdy basswood. And the Mohawk in particular were known for their carved and often painted cradleboard decorations. Usually, the father carved the board, which was then decorated by the mother and other female relatives.

This is a mid-19th Century hand-carved Mohawk cradleboard. The Pequot Museum (Mashantucket, CT) website has a slideshow of ten cradleboards, including this one, both vintage and modern, in their collection.

Here's a detail of a slightly less ornate, but just as intricately carved antique (undated) Mohawk cradleboard. (See other views here.)

Here's a link to a gorgeous Mohawk cradleboard in the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection, ca. 1860, from Quebec, Canada.

In practice, the carved, or otherwise decorated  side of the cradleboard went against the mother's back. The smoother inner side had a wide hoop at the top (sort of like a rollbar) to protect the baby's head, a footrest on the bottom to support the baby's feet, and either straps or hide or a blanket attached to the cradleboard to hold the baby in place.

When the baby was small, a Mohawk mother would strap her into the cradleboard and wear her on her back as she planted corn and worked in the field.

The Mohawk thought this gave every child the chance to view all people at eye level, as equals, from the very beginning of life.

(Cree mother and child, from the book American Indians, by Frederick Starr (1898), as seen online at ScienceViews

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