Friday, December 1, 2017

Gifts for the Nice and Naughty Part 1: Native Dolls

Posted By on Fri, Dec 1, 2017 at 1:32 PM

click to enlarge The sale of these Flower Dance girl dolls benefits Native Women's Collective. - PHOTO BY CUTCHA RISLING BALDY
  • Photo by Cutcha Risling Baldy
  • The sale of these Flower Dance girl dolls benefits Native Women's Collective.

Let’s remember in this season of giving, gifts are a way of showing people we love and appreciate them. Of course, presents can also be passive-aggressive weapons, tools of shade that help us work through/embrace our petty grudges and judgments. Both kinds of giving are even better when you’re helping a good cause.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll showcase some great gift ideas for the nice and naughty on your list. First up …

Gift: Native Flower Dance girl dolls
Humboldt State University professor Cutcha Risling Baldy (a contributor to this paper) handmade the dolls' maple bark skirts, pine nut necklaces and dentalium halos. Each doll holds hazel sticks and is dressed for a Flower Dance, the women's coming of age ceremony. "Maple bark skirts were the 'everyday' wear of Native women in Northwest California," Risling Baldy says. "Now, young women wear them during the Flower Dance." She made the dolls to sell at a fundraiser but also because she knows how much they could mean to a child. "I was gifted a doll like this after I was part of a Flower Dance. I've also seen other community members who will take dolls and make traditional regalia pieces for the dolls. It's been an important way of providing a doll to our young people that represents their culture. When I was growing up, I had my own doll which had a traditional buckskin dress and I carried it in a doll-size baby basket. It was really meaningful to me that I had a doll like this because it represented a part of me that I didn't really see in stores."


Only three dolls will be available ($60 each) at the United Indian Health Services craft fair this coming Saturday, Dec. 2, but you can check the Native Women's Collective's Facebook page next week to see when more will be available. Already have a favorite doll? She'll also have a bark skirt/necklace set that fits a Barbie-sized doll for $45.

Benefits: Native Women’s Collective, which “supports the continued growth of Native American arts and culture through public education, workshops, exhibits, research, cultural preservation projects, programs and technical assistance.” That's just awesome.

Nice List: Perfect for children (or grownups) who want to see Native people — themselves, their friends, their neighbors and their families — reflected in their doll collection. Especially cool for Native kids who don’t always get to see their communities portrayed accurately, positively or at all in popular culture. How much does representation matter? Ask my kids how long I cried in the Star Wars aisle at Target when the Asian Chirrut Imwe, Baze Malbus and Bodhi Rook action figures came in. Honestly, I’m ordering the Rose Tico figure online this year because shoppers do not need to see that mess.

Naughty List: If you've got $60 in your grudge budget, you could spend it on the child of someone you want to shade for his or her racist bullshit, including but not limited to clinging to offensive sports mascots. Might be worth it to watch him or her rend a Washington jersey as this doll takes up residence in the dream house (enjoy the couch, Ken!). After all, a beloved toy that's a piece of Native self-representation is a chip out of the negative stereotyping to which he or she might be exposed. Are you using children against their parents? Yes, you are. And it’s good practice if you plan on grandparenting.
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Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

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Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor of the North Coast Journal.

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