Native American Doll
Origin: America, New York (upper); or Canada (lower)
Cornhusk, textiles, beads, silver, and leather.
Gift of Mrs. Imogene Anderson
Acc. No. 1958.1200.2
The doll, made of cornhusks, has hair of black moire braided and tied with a red ribbon, and wears a purple tunic with engraved trade silver pieces, a red kerchief and a blue sash. The underskirt is of blue and green with beadwork in blue and white. Artist/Maker unidentified.
The doll came directly from the estate of Bishop Wilson, a missionary west of the Great Lakes in lower Canada. This doll was probably a treasure of a Christian Indian servant, given to the Bishop as a gift.
Label:This female doll was made by a member of the Iroquois confederation of tribes, possibly by a Seneca. The doll's inked facial features most likely were added later by a non-Native American. Iroquois doll faces traditionally were left blank so that children could attribute to the dolls features of their own imagining.
The doll's body is made of tightly folded cornhusks, and many details of her miniature outfit typify what was worn by Iroquois women in the mid nineteenth century. Note her deerskin moccasins, knee-length decorated wool leggings, wool skirt trimmed with silk ribbon and beads, and long jacket with a plaid kerchief or shawl around her neck. (The beads that decorate her attire appear larger than they would have on a person, because they are not scaled down in size).
"Iroquois" denotes a member of a league or federation of (originally) five northeastern tribes: Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca; later these tribes were joined by the Tuscarora from farther south. Their established towns were located primarily in present-day western Pennsylvania, upper New York state, and lower Canada, i.e., present-day Quebec and southernmost Ontario.
The three pieces of engraved trade silver fastening the front of the doll's jacket are NOT miniaturized versions of human attire but full-scale brooches of the type worn by Eastern Woodlands bands of Native people, particularly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Personal adornments of silver (along with axes, cloth, blankets, kettles, guns, beads, and other goods) were extensively traded and presented to Native Americans by European visitors and settlers from the time of contact onward. (In time, Native Americans also began making some silver ornaments for themselves, having learned silversmithing skills from European emigrant tradesmen).
Period depictions show that small brooches such as the doll's three were often worn in masses, pinned row upon row over the shoulders, fronts, and backs of both men's and women's shirts in order to signal the wearer's wealth, social status, and sense of style.
The twisted double heart topped by a crown that fastens the doll's jacket at the waist is an example of a "Luckenbooth" brooch whose variations include single hearts and crownless ones. The basic design is sometimes called the "national badge" of the Iroquois because of its popularity among the tribes forming the Iroquois confederacy. Luckenbooth brooches were popular Scottish love tokens in the seventeenth century. Whether they were introduced into the Colonies and lower Canada by Scottish settlers and traders or by British-trained silversmiths remains unknown.
Provenance:From the estate of missionary Bishop Wilson, a missionary west of the Great Lakes in lower Canada.