314 N. River Street
East Dundee, IL 60118
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
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.
carvings are not