History of Kachina Dolls

Posted: November 27th, 2013





History of Kachina Dolls

Kachina dolls were made by the Native American Indians. These dolls originated from the southwest of United States of America. The tribes which used these dolls were Hopi, Zuni and Pueblo. The Hopi community believes that the Kachina dolls live on the peak of San Francisco. Among the types of Kachina dolls, the most important to the Hopi is called Wuya. The Zuni community believes that these dolls live in the Lake of the Dead. This lake is just a myth and is believed to be situated where River Zuni and Little Colorado River meet (Kennard, 11).

The most fundamental requirement when making Kachina dolls is cottonwood root. The Native Americans chose it because of its density, durability and it is easy to curve. The cottonwood is sawed depending on the length of the doll. Since there were different types of dolls, a carver made the features accordingly. To make the body smooth, the carver used sandstone to rub, to perform the final touch. Some carvers decided to include other parts like headdress. They prepared them aside then attached to the body of the doll. Finally, a layer of kaolin was applied and the paint chosen (Kertzie, 6). Some carvers also included accessories to their dolls, which made them look more appealing. The Native Americans used paint made from organic materials like soot to get black paint, carbonite for green paint or limonite for yellow paint.

Kachina dolls were made for religious purposes. Each doll represented a spirit, which was believed to protect the people. Some of these spirits were the chief, corn girl, ceremony dancer, singer, and the ogre among others. These spirits were believed to bring fortunes like protection from evil, rainfall, plentiful harvest and healing. These dolls were also given to children to teach them about religion. This was mostly given to daughters in the village. A ceremony was held, and a person by the title Giver Kachina handed the dolls to the girls. Apart from religious purposes, Kachina dolls were used in memory of the departed. For example, there is a doll which is carved with cross legs. It represents a Mishongnovi man who lived up to 1880. They were also used to teach children about community rules. Children were threatened with the ogre woman doll, so that they maintain morals. It is crucial to note that these dolls were not idols. They were not considered as gods; therefore, they were not worshipped (Teiwes, 20).

There is a remarkably wide variety of Kachina dolls styles. Both old and new styles of dolls are available. Some old styles available include Cicada Kachina and Hemis Kachina. Cicada and Hemis Kachina dolls are used by Hopi community from south west of USA. Other styles include Navajo Kachina dolls. It is used by the Pueblo people from Arizona. Kertzie (34) adds that different artists will make these dolls in different ways. For example, some artists prefer adding fur around the hands and ankles. Others will include different accessories. Bear Kachina dolls are popular among the Zuni people. The bear is a spiritual leader with a lot of power and heals the sick. It also represents courage, wisdom and protection.

Today, most artists who manufacture these dolls do it for money. Some do not even consider maintaining the authenticity of Kachina culture. The communities which use these dolls still do but experience challenges. For example, when they intend to hold their ceremonies, they have to do it during weekends. This is so because people are engaged in their jobs and school, during week days. Acquiring the dolls is also quite expensive making it impossible to purchase many of them. When purchasing a Kachina doll, a genuine one will be proportional and so detailed, but a fake one will look dull and simple. To maintain the culture of Kachina dolls buyers should ensure authenticity when buying one (Teiwes 39).




















Works cited

Kennard, Edward. A. Hopi Kachinas. New York: Kiva Publishing. 2002. Print.

Kertzie, Janet. Kachina dolls: a checklist. Washington, D.C. The Museum. 1990. Print.

Teiwes, Helga. Kachina dolls: the art of Hopi carvers. Arizona: University of Arizona Press1991. Print.

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