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Quite frequently, visitors to River Trading Post are enthralled by our walls of Hopi Kachina dolls.

And quite frequently they will ask, “What are these?”

So we give them a short course on the Kachina doll, that goes a bit like this:





in Hopi are also known as kachina, or katsina dolls. They are typically carved

by the Hopi men (and, against all teachings, just a few women) from cottonwood root, and painted

with natural pigments. They are made as gifts for young girls as teaching tools to instruct them

about the spirit beings known as katsinas or


Although the details of the katsinam are closely held by the Hopi people, in general we know that

katsinas are immortal cloud beings, various parts of nature, spirits of the dead, and intermediaries

between humans and the spirit world.

For six months of the year, they inhabit Humpreys Peak, which

is a short distance from the Hopi mesas in northern Arizona, but

from the winter solstice to mid-July, these spirits, in the form of

katsinam, come down to the Hopi villages to dance, pray and

sing, and to bring rain for the upcoming harvest. The arrival of

the katsinam is a highly anticipated event at Hopi, and is

celebrated with an elaborate 8-day series of rites and dances

called Powamu. During the next six months, there are on-going c

elebrations and ceremonies, which culminate in the Niman or

Home Dance. This final celebration is held to thank the katsinam

for their help with the rain, corn and other blessings during the

season, and to send them safely back home to Humpreys Peak.

Before each ceremony, the men of the Hopi villages create fig-

ures in the likeness of the katsinam represented in the ceremony.

These figures, or kachina dolls, are then given to the daughters of

the village during the ceremony.

After the ceremony, the kachina dolls are hung on the walls of

the home in order to be studied so as to learn the characteristics

of a particular kachina.

Edward Kennard, co-author of

Hopi Kachinas,


the purpose of the kachina doll is essentially a

means of education, a gift at dance time and a decorative article for the home. But above all, it is a

constant reminder of the Kachinas.

Today, kachina doll carvers may also take a humorous and totally non-traditional approach to their

work. For example, the Mocker Kachina has no personality of his own, but fastens like a leech onto

any person or activity that catches his eye, as did a recent carving by our friend, Ryon

Polequaptewa, in his depiction of a Donald Trump Mocker Kachina (right).

To learn more about Hopi kachina dolls, we recommend reading

Hopi Kachina Dolls with a Key to

their Identification

by Harold S. Colton. In our opinion this is the very best source available to help understand each of the hundreds of

Hopi kachina dolls.

We also suggest that you visit our River Trading Post website library where you will learn more about Hopi kachina dolls and how to

build your own collection.

Broad Face Kachina

Augustine Mowa III

Soyok Wuhti

Raynard Lalo

Mocker Kachina

Ryon Polequaptewa