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Phone: 866-426-6901

314 N. River Street

East Dundee, IL 60118







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Arts of Native America

For hundreds, if not thousands of years, the Kachina

doll has been an integral part of the Pueblo Kachina

culture. They are carved from a single piece of cot-

tonwood root in the likeness of a supernatural being

or part of Nature. The dolls are used as gifts to chil-

dren, to teach them about the values and traditions of

these beings in their religious beliefs and life systems.

Enter the Navajo people, a group of people that are

not actually native to the Southwest, but who migrat-

ed far from the North (ostensibly over the land

bridge) with other Athabaskan speaking people, in-

cluding the Apache.

The Navajo people easily adopted many of the ways

of their Pueblo neighbors, because, as a nomadic peo-

ple, they were accustomed to learning how to “fit in”


In the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, the Hopi people

began to sell their Kachina dolls in the marketplace.

(Other Pueblos, with some exceptions at Zuni, forbid

the sales of Kachina dolls.)

In the 1920’s the adaptive Navajo people began to

recreate the Kachina doll, and sell them to the many

visitors to the Southwest — though the Kachina belief

system was not at all part of their culture.

Whereas the “true” Kachina doll is carved from a

single piece of cottonwood root, the Navajo versions

have their own twist, often using multiple pieces of

wood that are embellished with fur, beads, leather

and other materials.

The Navajo created an industry of their version of the

Kachina doll, in many cases undercutting the prices

of the Hopi dolls. Many people were fooled into

thinking there was religious significance inherent in

their carving.

Even today, many Navajo sell their carvings at tourist

places throughout the Southwest. But not at River

Trading Post. To our way of thinking, these are

simply wood carvings, not Kachina dolls, and they

will never find their way into our place.

Navajo wooden

carvings are not

Kachina dolls.

Avoid them.