First Nations Dolls
Decoration   Decoration

My people have always made dolls," was the answer given by a First Nations doll artist when asked about the history of Native doll making. Since First Nations dolls were usually made of natural materials, such as wood, leather, fur and corn husk, which decompose in temperate climates, few examples have survived.

Dolls made from corn cobs and husks were popular among the Six Nations peoples of the Lake Ontario region, who cultivated corn. Cornhusk dolls depicted playing lacrosse or doing the hoop dance reflected their culture. As early as the eighteenth century, the Algonquin made dolls with beeswax heads and hands. The people of the Plains created leather dolls and decorated their fringed leather clothing with porcupine quillwork. When European beads became available, after 1840, they replaced quills.

Young Montagnais and Naskapi girls were given dolls and encouraged to make clothes for them to develop their sewing skills. Dolls were also used as charms, amulets and fetishes. On the West Coast, Salish button-blanket dolls were made with small shells before buttons became available. China head dolls obtained through trade were sometimes dressed in Native clothing and tucked into small cradleboards for children to play with.

Decoration   Decoration

Male doll

Algonquin, ca. 1779
Beeswax head


III-L-273 - CD94-166-080
III-L-276 - Photo: S. Darby Baby doll

Algonquin, ca. 1779
Beeswax head


Male cornhusk doll

Huron (Wendat), 1788
Jeune Lorette, Quebec
Carved wooden head, human hair, earrings


III-H-429 - S94-13358
III-E-87 - CD97-130-062 Female doll

Malecite, ca. 1912
Carved wooden head


What is a Doll? | Inuit Dolls from Prehistory to Today | First Nations Dolls
Settlers' Dolls - Dolls Made at Home | Antique China and Parian Dolls
Antique Dolls Imported from Europe | Eaton's Beauty Dolls
The Birth of the Canadian Doll Industry | The Heyday of the Composition Doll
The Vinyl Doll Era | Canadian Original Doll Artists | Mechanical Dolls | Web Sites | Credits