Corn husk dolls have a long history in the Americas, where corn originated. Native American children played with toys made from husks that were soaked in water then formed into dolls. When the colonialists arrived in the New World, there were few resources available for children’s toys. The early settlers adopted the Native American tradition of making little dolls from materials at hand, including husks. Today, corn husk dolls are a favorite fall craft, simple to create and reminiscent of times past.
Although some corn husk dolls served ceremonial and other purposes, the most common use of the dolls among Native Americans was as toys for children. The toy dolls were not only for play but also for instruction. Girl dolls might have tiny cradleboards or hoes, while boy dolls carried a canoe paddle or bow. These accessories helped the children prepare for their future roles in society while they were still very young. Wooden kachina dolls serve some of the same purposes in Southwestern Indian cultures.
Many Native American cultures have legends pertaining to why the corn husk dolls are frequently faceless. Although the story differs from tribe to tribe, each tells that an exceptionally beautiful doll became too vain and behaved in a way that troubled the Creator. As a punishment for her vanity, she lost her features. The story is used to teach children playing with the dolls to not be vain, or think they are better than others. The tradition of making these dolls survives in many tribes today.
Just one of many Native American crafts that is now enjoyed by people around the world, corn husk dolls have a long tradition in North America. Corn originated in the Americas. It is one of the so-called "Three Sisters," the three main plants that Native Americans cultivated. Together with its sister plants squash and beans, corn was served at almost every meal and provided a versatile food that could be prepared in numerous ways. The husks were used to create fun and instructional dolls for children.
Traditional Mexican craftsmen make corn husk dolls in both natural and dyed colors. The dolls are sometimes elaborate and decorated with cloth and ribbons, resembling traditional apparel. This native craft was adopted by early European settlers the same way it was in the United States. Versions of the corn husk doll were made by many cultures around the globe as corn spread as a food crop. Dolls can now be found in Africa, Asia and Europe, along with the Americas.