Kachina Dolls

Native American Hopi Kachina Dolls:

Kachina Dolls. Hopi Katsinam are crafted to acknowledge celestial beings, significant animals to the Hopi people, and the ancestors who help with their harvest, raising their spirits as well as raising their children. The Hopi people believe that the Katsina dancers possess supernatural powers, though they are men from the village wearing masks and feathered costumes.

“Some Native objects can inspire awe in non-Native viewers, much in the way that one might respond to a fine work of art without knowing the cultural background of the imagery. The most intriguing objects ….are those that “remind us of what came before” and that have “an intense attention to detail, and an inherent beauty.” Anyone who walks in the room should be affected by it, even if they have no idea about the context behind it. We agreed that there is something compelling about the katsina (often called kachina) standing before us.” *By: Margaret Bruchac An Object Beautiful

There are hundreds of Hopi Katsinam, “personations” of supernatural beings, important animals and ancestors who help the Hopi people raise their crops, their children, and their spirits. The Katsina dancers are men wearing masks–each of which represents a particular Katsina–and paint and feathered costumes. Everyone in the village, aside from the children, knows that the Katsina dancers are actually men from the village, though Katsinam are still believed to have supernatural powers. Much of the value in these dances is found to be instructing the young. Hand carved and collector items. Signed and numbered.

Sammie Walker, master carver of Kachina dolls since the age of 8, was born to Deer Water Clan. He spent his childhood in Sand Springs, Arizona, in the heart of Tony Hillerman Country, where he helped his family with their farming and the tending of their 360 sheep, 67 cows, and 37 horses. Sammie’s father was a medicine man who also fashioned moccasins form the cured hide of their cattle. At the age of 8, Sammie developed a love of carving after working on a 2×4 that had been saved to repair the family’s horse drawn wagon. Sammie’s first doll was a simple stick-typo figure with no base. Pine tree sap was used as glue and the arms were secured with horse shoe nails. He and his father took the doll to Bruce Powell, owner of a trading post at Old Oraibi. He bought Sammie’s doll for $35.00. That was the beginning. Realizing that his son had a gift for carving Sammie’s father introduced him to a Hopi friend, Many Cattles who gave Sammie a book on Hopi Kachinas and then taught him the art of carving. Later, Many Cattles initiated Sammy in one of his Hopi plaza dances. Since that time Sammie has carved dolls for local enthusiasts as well as for Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and President Fox of Mexico. Hand carved and collector items. Signed and numbered.

Navajo Kachina Dolls: Made by the Navajo Nation to support their villages, Navajo Kachinas are beautiful, sought after, and affordable. They come in three different sizes. Please choose leather/clothes colors: red, white, black, tans/golds, blues/greens. The feather colors vary.

It is clear upon examination of these dolls that the Navajo Kachina is not hand-carved from cottonwood root as are the Hopi Katsinam. The body parts of the Navajo Kachina are machine made; the dolls are then pegged, glued together, clothed and painted and hand-finished by the Navajo maker. These are more a totem item rather than an embodiment of the spirit as they are made to support the village.

Ultimately the purpose of the Navajo Kachina dolls is a creative source of income for the Navajo people. The dolls are excellent souvenir-quality pieces. They borrow from many cultures to create these sculptures that are priced significantly below the usual Hopi hand-carved Katsina dolls. These dolls can be offered at economical prices for several reasons. First, the wood used for the Navajo Kachina dolls is not from the root of a cottonwood tree. The woods they use are strong and more abundant. Second, most of the parts of the Navajo Kachina dolls are machine worked, then assembled by hand. This allows them to be produced in higher quantities than the individually detailed Hopi Katsinam. Once assembled, the Navajo Kachinas are painted and decorated by hand and then distributed to retailers for sale to the public. Third, as they are initially machined, they can be produced and finished by many people rather than one.

Some major Kachinas and their spiritual meanings:

Badger (south)—healers, aggressiveness, perseverance
Bear (west)—healer, strength, introspection
Buffalo—strength, endurance to rise above one’s weaknesses
Butterfly–Butterfly directs the medicine man to ingredients that can be used in medicine. The Butterfly Kachina brings together unmarried men and women. During the butterfly social dance they appear as a pair, one female and one male.
Deer—abundance in the natural world
Eagle (zenith or sky)—spirit, a connection to the Divine Hawk—see things differenlty,
Change Owl—wise, smart, patient, the unseenRaven—healer
Snake—a force in life, death and rebirth
Wolf (east)—teacher, pathfinder on the journey of survival, familly

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