History of the Modern Hopi Kachina Doll
Kachina dolls are carved representations of the masked kachina dancers, themselves representations of the kachina spirits that lived among the Hopi People and imparted valuable skills and qualities. Kachina dolls were first created as teaching tools for Hopi children. The earliest kachina dolls are believed to date back to the late 18th century.
Hopi kachina dolls used for instructional purposes were (and still are) created to be appropriate for the age of the child they are given to. For instance, kachina dolls made for infants are flat figures with minimally identifying characteristics, and those for toddlers are made with flat bodies with three-dimensional faces. The full-bodied kachina dolls are given to children over the age of two.
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As Western expansion brought more white settlers and their religion into the Southwest, Hopi religion was repressed. For a short time, kachina doll carving nearly stopped. However, under new federal legislation that protected their rights, Hopis once again began carving kachina dolls in the 1930s. The new generation of kachina dolls was more life-like and detailed than their predecessors’.
Traditional to Commercial Kachina Dolls
The Hopi people have only been creating kachina dolls for sale since about the mid-20th century. Commercial kachina dolls are still representations of masked kachina dancers and showcase the skill of the artist. Authentic kachina dolls are still carved from one (or pieces of several) cottonwood tree root in the time-honored tradition. However, kachina dolls created for the purpose of being sold as art may more liberally reflect an artist’s interpretation rather than strictly adhere to traditional representations of the kachina’s appearance.
Hopi Kachina Dolls at Palms Trading Company
Palms Trading Company has a fine selection of Native American Indian kachina dolls, including dolls carved in the Hopi tradition using only one piece of cottonwood tree root. Most objects that the Hopi figure wears or holds in its hands are carved, and bright colors highlight the intricate detail of these dolls. However, some Hopi dolls also feature feathers and rabbit fur, which are not carved.