Cornhusk dolls were made by Native Americans in the Northeastern part of the United States. Both boys and girls played with these dolls made from one of the three most important Iroquois crops corn. The Iroquois Nations passed the tradition to the Englishmen who settled in the area, and now Museum visitors can carry on the tradition here at CDM. Pre-soaked cornhusks and basic directions are provided to support the visitors’ handiwork.
Children learn one of the ways in which early Americans contributed to their arts and culture, and see that art can be functional as well as beautiful. Native American tribes produced a variety of dolls, each one reflecting the individual culture, clothing, and resources of a particular tribe. By learning about the dolls, children learn about the tribes themselves.
Children are encouraged to make a connection between the factory produced dolls and action figures that they play with today and homemade dolls that children played with long ago. Toys are universal and children, both past and present, play with toys that reflect their society. By creating a cornhusk doll, children visiting the Museum understand one of the many ways that children of long ago were just like themselves.
CDM provides basic directions for constructing a cornhusk doll, but children are encouraged to embellish and add on as their inspiration leads them. Traditionally, Native American children created their dolls’ clothing to match their own. At home, visitors may want to create clothing, jewelry, shoes, or hair for the doll out of common craft items such as, yarn, buttons, glitter, and paint.