A Story told by Mrs. Snow a craftswoman from the Seneca tribe and retold by Deborah Adams goes well with my series on Corn. This story is called the Story of the Corn Husk Doll.
Many moons ago there were three sisters and corn was one of them. She was tired of crafting the same old things: she made the saltboxes, faces and moccasins but she wanted to make something different and so she got permission from the Great Spirit God. She made little people out of cornhusk and their duty was to travel the earth bringing love, contentment and brotherhood to the Iroquois people. There was one particular cornhusk doll that was really beautiful, however, she was quite troublesome.
You see this little cornhusk doll was very vain and rather than to do the work she was instructed to do she preferred to go into the woods and gaze at herself in the river. The Great Spirit God was angry with her. He sent a messenger to warn her, but she didn’t listen and so he had no choice but to punish her. He took away her beautiful face and she could no longer converse with the birds and the Seneca people.
To this day the Seneca people do not put faces on their cornhusk dolls.
Related Uses for cornhusk dolls in Native Culture
Native peoples have been making cornhusk dolls for their children to play with for thousands of years. The brittle cornhusk softens in water and can be manipulated into dolls for Penobscot toys.
Shamans used cornhusk dolls for healing purposes. There is also a certain type of cornhusk doll that was made by the Iroquois in response to a dream. This doll was later buried in the ground to ward off evil spirits.
The hair on these dolls are made from cornhusk tassel, while the feet and body of the dolls are stuffed with leaves and then tied. The arms and legs on cornhusk dolls are crafted from braided or rolled husks. The dolls stand between four and 10 inches high and occasionally a face is drawn on the doll including red checks made up of red dots. More often than not the doll has no face at all.
The cornhusk dolls can be dressed in cornhusk, animal skins or fabric, some cornhusk dolls do not have any clothing at all.
The cornhusk dolls will also come with accessories necessary to teach children the skills they need in life. “Girl cornhusks dolls will come with cradleboards, hoes, sewing kits or other women’s things, while boys could be provided with bows and arrows, canoe paddles and warrior’s gear.”