Encounter the People

Hopi Katsinas

Hopi Basketry Hopi Basketry Hopi Basketry Hopi Basketry

The Hopi are an agricultural people whose subsistence depends on close observation and careful stewardship of their arid and sometimes harsh homeland. While they have developed agricultural techniques and seed stocks uniquely suited to their Hopi Katsina
Photo (c) 2009 Michele Mountain
Museum of Northern Arizona
environment, the Hopi have also devised ceremonial practices intended to facilitate the conditions necessary to agricultural success. Katsinas, supernatural beings who serve as divine messengers, play important roles in seasonal ceremonies. While the particular Katsinas and the roles they play in such ceremonies vary, their most common aim is to ensure rain.

Katsina dolls (tithu or katsintithu), which are carved from cottonwood root and painted to resemble the various Katsinas, are presented to Hopi girls and newly married Hopi women at seasonal ceremonies. Intended as teaching tools, they are taken home and displayed, serving as reminders of important cultural beliefs and values, and as aids in future identification of the various Katsinas.

While they were originally produced solely for Hopi use, katsina dolls began to appear on the market through sale or trade in the early twentieth century. Once their commercial value became recognized, the practice of carving katsina dolls for a non-Native market spread and innovations in materials and form were quickly introduced.

Text (c) 2009 Jennifer McLerran, Ph.D., Curator of the Museum/Museum of Northern Arizona

Additional Information

Websites:

Resource for Katsina Doll Collectors ( http://www.rcisites.com )
Rainmakers from the Gods ( http://www.140.247.102.177/katsina/default.html )
Hopi Katsintithu - Katsina Dolls ( http://www.nau.edu )
Haffenreffer Museum ( http://www.brown.edu )
Arizona State Museum ( http://www.statemuseum.arizona.edu )

Readings:
  • Beaver, Bill. “Collecting Kachina Dolls,” Plateau, vol. 63, no. 4 (1992): 18-31.
  • Breunig, Robert and Michael Lomatuway’ma, “Form and Function in Hopi Tithu,” Plateau, vol. 63, no. 4 (1992): 3-13.
  • Colton, Harold S. Hopi Kachina Dolls with a Key to their Identification. University of New Mexico Press, 1949.
  • Dockstader, Frederick J. The Kachina and the White Man: A Study of the Influence of White Culture on the Hopi Kachina Cult. Revised and enlarged edition. University of New Mexico Press, 1985.
  • Fewkes, Jesse Walter. “Hopi Katcinas,” Twenty-First Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1899-1900. U. S. Government Printing Office, 1903.
  • Pearlstone, Zuna. Katsina: Commodified and Appropriated Images of Hopi Supernaturals. UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 2001.
  • Sekakuku, Alph H. Following the Sun and the Moon: Hopi Kachina Tradition. Northland Publishing, 1995.
  • Teiwes, Helga. Kachina Dolls: The Art of Hopi Carvers. University of Arizona Press, 1991.
  • Wright, Barton. Hopi Kachinas: The Complete Guide to Collecting Kachina Dolls. Northland Publishing, 1977.
  • Wright, Barton and Evelyn Roat. This Is a Hopi Kachina. Museum of Northern Arizona, 1965.