Small Spirits: Native American Dolls from the National Museum of the American Indian

Overview

A dazzling variety of Native American dolls--from prehistoric ceramic figures to striking contemporary creations by Inuit and Pueblo artists--fills the pages of Small Spirits. These miniature forms have played rich and diverse roles in indigenous cultures from antiquity to the present, serving as toys and learning tools for children, sacred and magical figurines, props and performers in drama and dance, and, in recent years, items manufactured ...
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Overview

A dazzling variety of Native American dolls--from prehistoric ceramic figures to striking contemporary creations by Inuit and Pueblo artists--fills the pages of Small Spirits. These miniature forms have played rich and diverse roles in indigenous cultures from antiquity to the present, serving as toys and learning tools for children, sacred and magical figurines, props and performers in drama and dance, and, in recent years, items manufactured for sale. Some dolls today are created as artworks and coveted by collectors.

Stunning full-color images portray the beauty and craftsmanship of the dolls, from the simplest toy made of sticks and cloth scraps to the exquisitely dressed replica of a woman in her finest regalia. Each offers a glimpse into a particular cultural world--Navajo, Cree, or Tapirape--and into the mind of an individual maker. The great variety of form and materials--such as walrus tusk ivory, cornhusks, and beeswax embellished with the brilliantly colored feathers of tropical birds--reflects the vibrancy and range of Native American lifeways.

Mary Jane Lenz's insightful, authoritative text offers a lively discussion of the intriguing roles that dolls have played in Native American cultures and explores their significance today, while carefully chosen historical photographs bring to life the people who made and used these remarkable creations.

About the Authors
Mary Jane Lenz is a museum specialist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. Clara Sue Kidwell (Choctaw/Chippewa) is director of the Native American Studies Program at the University of Oklahoma.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Lenz, now a curator at the new National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, was previously with the Museum of the American Indian in New York, where she mounted and wrote the catalog for a show on dolls called "The Stuff of Dreams." Her current show, one of the first at the new museum, uses its extensive collection, along with some borrowed pieces. Loosely lumping all human representations made by Native Americans from the Western Hemisphere into the category of dolls, Lenz considers effigies made for power (that is, religious significance), performance (e.g., shadow puppets), and play (including whole tipi villages). More recently, Native Americans have been constructing elaborate dolls with accurate detail in clothing and equipment for collectors. One might quibble that clay figurines 4000 years old are hardly toys, but the variety and complexity of the dolls presented will intrigue readers, and their appeal is ageless. For larger libraries with Native American collections or books for collectors.-Gay Neale, formerly with Southside Virginia Community Coll. Lib., Alberta Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780295983639
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2004
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 10.70 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

The toys and tools of life 7
Preface and acknowledgments 10
Introduction 13
From the past 23
For playing 47
For power 83
For performance 105
For purchase 123
List of dolls 158
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