Published on October 25, 2011 by Amy
Dolls play a very important role in the culture of the Native American people. Just about every tribe from every region of the world has created their own dolls, and each are made with different materials, and all have their own special meanings.
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Native American dolls were not just playthings for little girls. Many times the dolls were symbolic and held a very important spiritual significance. All of the materials used to make Native American dolls really speak volumes about where the various tribes resided. For example, many Inuit dolls were made with fur, indicating that they lived in cold climates, thus the doll reflected this in its dress.
The Seminole tribe made many of their dolls from palmetto leaves, indicating that they resided in a swampy marsh area. Many Native American dolls were made with a great amount of detail. For example, many Navajo dolls have been found with very intricate and small jewelry made of turquoise around their necks and as earrings. This indicates a spurt of wealth within the tribe, and shows that the people were reflecting this wealth and abundance onto their dolls. Many times, Native American dolls were used to teach children important lessons about life and coping. Some dolls were made with wooden heads and a lot of detail. In most cases, these Native American dolls represented people. Still others were made with no face, and those dolls usually represented a spirit instead of a human form. Many of the dolls had accessories which reflected the life of the particular tribe they came from.
Native American dolls can be a real window into the culture of several tribes. Dolls from the Seneca tribe even made little baby dolls, and attached them to a small board (usually made of bark or thinly stripped wood), and then mounted them on the female dolls back. This indicates that their culture carried their children on boards, and is a great insight into their lives. Many, if not all Native American dolls were made with indigenous materials and all natural items. Corn husks, pine needles, large leaves, wood, rock, and fur were very common materials.
Today, there are many artisans who recreate the beauty of these Native American dolls. Most try to make sure they are as authentic as the originals, paying special attention to detail such as the materials used, methods for creating the dolls, and color choices. Many Native American dolls were made with animals blood, plant dyes and charcoal from the earth to add color. Today’s artists sell millions of Native American dolls each year. Perhaps it is for a gift, collectible, museum piece, educational doll, or just for those who want to hold onto their heritage. No matter what the reason, the dolls are a beautiful symbol of Native American life, and pay a wonderful tribute to a piece of history that will always be prevalent. Native American dolls can be found in gift shops, local stores, museums, and in a number of wonderful books on the subject.