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Information, Facts and History on Kachina Dolls (Katsina)

If one looks at Southwest Indian art, the Kachina doll (also known as Katsina dolls) will be one of the types of artwork found in galleries. Historically, Kachinas (Katsinas) were masked and costumed Native Indian dancers who represented various spiritual and natural elements of life. A spirit could represent different characterizations of people such as clowns, singers, warriors and even wood carriers. Various animals such as eagles, bears, buffalos, deer, owls, butterflies and badgers are often depicted. There are Kachinas for the sun, moon, stars, earth and even different crops such as squash.

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There is a Kachina spirit for every purpose and in fact, there are over 900 documented Kachinas in history. Kachinas are considered guardians or messengers to the Gods. Interestingly enough, dancers from the tribes are usually male even if a female Kachina is impersonated in a performance.

Southwest Native Indian tribes such as the Navajo, Zuni and Hopi, made Kachina dolls for use in religious ceremonies. The carved Kachina doll was used as a teaching tool. What the spirits taught the elders of the tribes were then taught to the others through the representations in the Kachina dolls.

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Navajo Eagle Kachina Doll

Kachina dolls were also originally given to women and children as gifts but later on, they were made for everyone’s enjoyment. Kachina (Katsina) dolls are one of the major art forms right up there along with rugs, jewelry and pottery in Southwest Native Indian art.

Common sizes for Kachina dolls range from a few inches to over 20 inches in height. Smaller dolls are often priced under $100 but a large Kachina doll made by a well known name artist could easily be priced at several thousand dollars. Such a doll is a much sought after and highly prized piece of artwork by collectors of Southwest Indian art. Original higher end Kachinas are usually signed by the artist and come with some sort of documentation certifying authenticity.

For some good sources of this beautiful form of Native artwork, see our recommendations for Kachina Dolls. One of our sources also has a detailed Kachina Doll Dictionary.

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