All groups of Pueblo people made Katsina dolls (commonly known as Kachina dolls), but those of the Hopi are most famous. Known as tihu in the Hopi language, the Katsina dolls were not playthings like dolls in the European tradition. Rather, they were religious objects with an educational and instructional purpose.
Carved from the root of the cottonwood tree, Katsina dolls were traditionally made by men and usually given to girls, especially those soon ready to marry. Katsinas were personifications of invisible spirits, not gods as much as ancestors who aided the Hopi, especially in their never-ending need for rain. The dolls contain part of the Katsinas’ power.
When a child received a doll, it would be hung prominently in his or her house. In more recent years, the dolls have also become a commodity made by Hopi craftsmen and sold to non-Natives.
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