American Indian Dolls

Are you interested in American Indian dolls? Would you like to know about the relevance of American Indian dolls to the native way of life? Read our guide for facts & information…

America Indian doll were used for several purposes in the Indian culture. They were used as toys, for rituals, for performance and puppetry and as tourist art. The most generally accepted purpose for American Indian dolls was that of playthings for the culture’s youth. Dolls serve a dual purpose of not only entertaining children but also to teach them about the customs of their society through the use and creation of these dolls. In the western culture dolls are often gender specific like Barbie for girls and GI Joe for the boys. Something akin to this could be observed in the American Indian dolls used by the indigenous tribes of the Arctic region where the male dolls were identified with a smiling face while the female doll was characterized by a frowning face.

These dolls were carved out of bones or walrus ivory by the father of the child regardless of the gender of the child and the doll. On the other hand, the Plains Indians would make unisex dolls for their children and the kids would then assign genders to their playthings. Normally, the gender of the doll would be the same as the gender of the child playing with it.

The Katsina dolls made by the members of the Hopi Indian tribe were exclusively made by the men of the tribe and were presented to the girls after the agricultural ceremony. Similarly, the gender of the dolls made by the indigenous tribes of South and Central America vary according to the tribes. The ‘lengua’ tribe manufactures the most overtly feminine dolls with the inclusion of breasts on the figurine. However, this is not done for all the female dolls. Thus, if you were to compare the American Indian dolls made and used by the various tribes you would notice that even though gender played a vital role in the making of the dolls it was a rather flexible art form which differed based on the tribes and the customs within the tribes.

Like all other cultures American Indian dolls were also manufactured for the primary purpose of entertainment, socialization and the education of the youth of the tribe. Dolls carry several educational connotations and they are an effective way of teaching the youth practical techniques and the norms of adult behavior.  Both aspects, the creation of the figurine and its use as a plaything subtly teach children about the customs and rules of the society along with the skills needed to survive in a specific culture.

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