Choctaw Dolls

The descriptive Choctaw language has an apt term for children's toy, "isht washoha", which literally means "played with".  Ancestral Choctaw parents and grandparents have been making toys for children to play with for millennia.  Many of these toys seem to have been training tools to help children develop the skills and practices that they would need as adults.

Today, due to a lack of recording, there is, unfortunately, a great deal that we do not know about early Choctaw toys.  Fortunately, at least two incredible groups of Oklahoma Choctaw dolls dating to the 1880s, have survived in excellent condition.  These artistic representations appear to depict still earlier Choctaw people, probably from around the time period of the 1830s.  They give us a window into an earlier period of Choctaw life, and early toys that were made for some fortunate Choctaw children. A few of these dolls are featured on the following pages.

Shelton Female Doll

Item's Choctaw Name:  Ohoyo Holba Isht Washoha

Item's English Name:  Doll

Age:  1880s

Material: Burlap skin, human hair, cotton thread, glad bottle frame, cloth dress, glass beads

Dimensions: Height = 29 cm.

Origin: This is one of two dolls in the Shelton collection that belonged to Lena McCurtain-More (Daughter of Chief Green McCurtain), born in 1881.  Her mother, Katy McCurtain made one of these dolls.  One of her aunts, possibly Nancy Roebuck (maiden name unknown), made the other.

Notes:  This doll has been made on a glass bottle.  The body of the bottle was not examined for fear of damaging the doll.  The doll's body is made of burlap.  The face, arms and torso are stuffed.  The eyes are painted on.  The mouth and nose have been made with the aid of stitched to bunch up the material where desired.

This doll is very similar to 6 others that are in the collection of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Shelton Male Doll

Item's Choctaw Name:  Hattak Holba Isht Washoha

Item's English Name:  Doll

Age:  1880s

Material: Skin made from burlap-like material.  Moccasins, leggings, breechcloth, back covering, shot pouch, and strap made of elk buckskin.  Hair made from black thread.  Knit shirt and felt covering. Wooden gun. Cotton thread.

Dimensions: Height = 35 cm.

Origin: This is one of two dolls in the Shelton collection that belonged to Lena McCurtain-More (Daughter of Chief Green McCurtain), born in 1881.  Her mother, Katy McCurtain made one of these dolls.  One of her aunts, possibly Nancy Roebuck (maiden name unknown), made the other.

Notes: The doll's body is made from stuffed cloth.  Many of its accompanying pieces are made from soft, braintan elk hide that appears to have been wet-scraped.  The back of the body is covered in a wrap made of the same material that has been heavily embroidered.  This is invisible unless the torso covering is lifted.  The leggings were created by wrapping a piece of leather around each leg so that the leather at the front overlapped the leather from the back side of the leg.  A running stitch was used to attach the material, and the excess from the front side was cut into fringe. The moccasins are pucker-toed, with the seam on the bottom, perhaps to accommodate the embroidery on their top surfaces.  Features of the face were made 3-dimensional with the aid of stitches to bunch up the material where desired.  Coloration on the face was done with embroidery.  The wood for the gun has been milled.

This doll is very similar to 6 others in the collections of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

image of Shelton Dolls

Shelton Dolls - Oklahoma Historical Society

 

Harkins Male Doll 1

Item's Choctaw Name:  Hattak Holba Isht Washoha

Item's English Name: Doll

Age:  ca.1880

Material: Braintan leather, cotton print textile, ribbon, black beads, broach, commercial thread, human hair.

Origin: Doll made by Mrs. A.J. Harkins to represent a particular Choctaw person before the Trail of Tears.

Current Owner: Oklahoma Historical Society  (#2667). 

Location: Oklahoma History Center, Oklahoma City

Contact: (405) 521-2491

Notes - This exquisite doll represents a blending of Choctaw tradition with Euro-American fabric working techniques.  The dolls' face, leggings, and moccasins are made out of traditional, braintan leather.  The hunting  shirt is made from print textile adorned with ribbon.   Beads are used on the head ornament and moccasins, larger beads are on a string around the neck. The hair on the dolls head is human.

image of Harkins male 1 doll

Harkins Male Doll 1 - Oklahoma Historical Society

Harkins Male Doll 2

Item's Choctaw Name:  Hattak Holba Isht Washoha

Item's English Name: Doll

Age:  ca.1880

Material: Braintan leather, silk print textile, red silk, black velvet, ribbon, lace, beads, sequins, human hair.

Origin: Doll made by Mrs. A.J. Harkins to represent a particular Choctaw person before the Trail of Tears.

Current Owner: Oklahoma Historical Society  (#2667). 

Location: Oklahoma History Center, Oklahoma City

Contact: (405) 521-2491

Notes: This exquisite doll represents a blending of Choctaw tradition with Euro-American fabric working techniques.  The dolls' face, leggings, and moccasins are made out of traditional, braintan leather. The shirt is made from light brown silk print.  The wrap around at the waist is made from  red silk material, trimmed with black velvet, lace and beads. The yellow ribbon belt is adorned with sequins and beads.  The sash is of red silk sash.  The hair on the doll's head is human.

image of Harkins Male 2 doll

Harkins Male Doll 2 - Oklahoma Historical Society