Kachina Doll Collection
by Michael R. Reilly, July 7, 2016
About Kachina Dolls
For over 2,000 years, Native Americans of the Southwest have prayed to the great spirits to bless their world with good weather, abundant game and a bountiful harvest. The Pueblo people believe that each year, just after the winter solstice, beings known as Kachinas bring them messages from these spirits, walking upon the earth to interact with the Pueblo people. At the end of the planting season, they return to the spirit world. Since each tribe may have their own distinct Kachinas, there is thought to be over 400 of them.
Kachina dolls history begins with the Hopi people, who were first to create Kachina dolls, as a way to teach children about Kachinas. During the season when the Kachinas visit the visible world, Hopi men dress in Kachina costumes to perform dances and ceremonies, in order to interact with the spiritual beings. If the rituals are properly performed, the Kachinas may communicate through the men who portray them or may appear to the tribe in clouds or mist. Only men are allowed to personify the Kachinas. To educate the rest of the tribe about Kachinas, men carve dolls, traditionally from a single piece of cottonwood root, so that the whole tribe can experience a connection. The dolls were not used as toys, but rather were hung from walls or displayed on the floor. The dolls were passed down from generation to generation, staying with the tribes for hundreds of years.
It was not until the late 1800s and early 1900s that they began to be sold in the marketplace, and Native Americans began to create Kachina dolls specifically to be sold outside the tribe. Some of today’s Hopi people see Kachina dolls as a bridge between Hopis and non-Hopis. The Navajo people began making their own Kachina dolls in the 20th century, adding their own decorative elements, including beads and turquoise.
Today, Kachina dolls history continues as Kachina dolls, both old and new, are perceived as one of the most collectible Native American crafts on the market. An ancient and rare Kachina sold for $250,000. Fine contemporary Kachina dolls can sell for as much as $50,000. Cottonwood root is still the preferred wood. The material is light, easy to carve and very sturdy.
Kachina Doll Collection, donated by Sharon Jess, Oconomowoc, May 26, 2016
The Hoop Dancer has the primary function of amusing the audience of a major ceremony. In many instances it is difficult to tell whether the impersonation should be labeled clown or kachina. 6 inches tall [Two hoops, in each hand, are separated]. Marked ML BeGay on base bottom.
The OWL KACHINA appears in Mixed Kachina Dances. He also appears in ordinary kachina dance. He is best known for his war on the clown. He watches their outrageous behavior with strong disapproval. Each time he appears he moves in closer to the disobedient clowns. At the last performance the Owl Kachina is joined by other Warrior Kachinas. They pounce on the clowns and beat them vigorously with yucca blades. 6 inches tall, marked Jones in pencil on base bottom. Missing item held in right hand.
The HEMIS KACHINA is sometimes called the Niman Kachina. It is usually used in the Niman Kachina dance when the kachinas leave for six months. It is the first kachina to bring the corn to the people indicating the first crop is ready to harvest. 10 1/2 inches tall, marked EJoe on base bottom.
EAGLE DANCER [KWAHU]
The EAGLE DANCER appears most often at the night ceremonies in early March. The Eagle is believed to possess great powers and maintains a close relationship with the sun and sky. The dance imitates the movements of the Eagle to perfection. He is often called upon during the curing rite. 8 1/2 inches tall, marked Lenova Jones on base bottom.
HOPI by CLIFFORD PONGYESVIA
White faced kachina with black chevron across face, red lips, 7 inches tall, marked HOPI by CLIFFORD PONGYESVIA on base bottom.
BLACK BEAR kachina, marked BYCTHR60 on base bottom, 14 1/2 inches tall.
The SUNFACE kachina appears in the Mixed Dance. He carries a flute and a rattle. There are many stories of his interactions with people, animals, and even monsters. He represents the spirit of the sun. Marked IA Francisco on base bottom, 12 inches tall. Missing rattle or ? in left hand.
WHME [White?] ORGE
WHME ORGE carries knife in left raised hand, by marked Sherman on base bottom, 12 inches tall.
WOLF kachina, marked "by Dan '94" on base bottom, 13 inches tall.