cherokee (pseudo)

USA: Native American man and woman with baby

cherokee (pseudo)
Pseudo-Cherokee man and woman

General description These dolls are a pair dressed in “Indian clothes” which were sold in the 1970s in the reservation shop on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as being Cherokee.

Date when acquired: 1974

Original Date: 1970s

Source: Cherokee Reservation, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, USA

Body

Both dolls are made of plastic and have moveable (weighted) eyes. The woman has orangey-brown eyes and the man yellowy-brown ones. Their arms are movable at shoulders but their legs are rigid.

The man can stand on his own two feet but the woman is standing on a heart-shaped clear plastic stand with a stretchable metal band holding her feet. Both have long black hair with a central parting and tied in two plaits. The plaits are held with blue suede bands in the woman and brown suede in the man.

Female doll

cherokee (pseudo)
Back view

Dimensions: 20.0 cm x 9.5 cm x 7.0 cm

Clothing

Her clothing is all made of white leather. She has on a fringed skirt covered by a fringed leather apron with pattern of red and blue beads. A sash is hanging down on the left of the apron with a pattern of red and blue beads. The lower edge of her fringed shirt is cut so that there is a point at the front. She has a white leather fringed choker around her neck with a long turquoise bead necklace on top. Her white leather head band has a design in blue and red beads. A feather is stuck in  the back. On her feet, she has a pair of white leather moccasins with a pattern of blue and red beads.

Accessories

The doll is carrying a small baby in a white leather papoose, which is tied with light blue suede bands and stapled to its mother’s shoulders. A wooden stick is lying between her feet (it was originally attached to one hand).

Male doll

Dimensions: 19 cm x 8.5 cm x 7 cm

Clothing

The man’s clothing is all in cream-coloured leather. They consist of  unadorned trousers, fringed shirt and moccasins. The shirt has the same pointed form at the front as for the woman. He has a cream leather belt with a hanging sash on the left. The sash has a design in light blue, black and red beads on it. Around his neck is a multicoloured beaded necklace. A fur (artificial) cloak is folded over his  right shoulder. As with the woman he is wearing a white leather head band, though the pattern is made of black and red beads.  A double feather is stuck in the headband on the right.

Accessories

He has a bow made out of wood with a dark brown leather string and a feather at the top hanging over his right shoulder. On the same shoulder is a fringed quiver (without arrows) with a feather poking out the top.

Background information

I bought these dolls in 1974 at my Uncle Ray’s home reservation in North Carolina and until starting the research for my dolls believed that these were true representatives of Cherokee dress. On the road to the reservation in the summer of 1974, there were elderly men and children dressed like this with many of the men with full feathered headdresses on their heads. The tourists could let themselves be photographed with them for a small amount of money. I have always remembered that my Uncle said that the Cherokee did not wear such headdresses, that this was “just for the tourists”. I did not realise that that was not all that was presented just to fulfil the tourists’ ideas of what an “Indian” should be and look like. These dolls are actually wearing a type of Plains Indian dress not Cherokee (it maybe Sioux). The Cherokee did wear moccasins however. Most probably the original Cherokee clothing was a little too revealing for the tastes of the 1970s US Americans.

In reality, Cherokee men originally wore breechcloths (a long rectangular piece of hide or cloth tucked over a belt, so that the flaps fell down in front and behind) with leggings attached to them. Their belts were either finger-woven or beaded. They wore a blanket over one shoulder as in this male doll.

Originally, instead of plaits, Cherokee men shaved their heads except for a single scalp lock with a feather or two tied at the crown of their heads. Sometimes they would also wear a porcupine roach (a hair ornament made out of porcupine quills and deer hair). The Cherokees definitely did not wear long headdresses like the Sioux except to please the tourists as my Uncle told me. The men had multiple pierced earrings around the rims of their ears.

Cherokee women wore wraparound skirts of leather or woven mulberry bark, poncho-style blouses made out of woven fibre or deerskin and mantles of leather or feathers. They had earrings pierced through the earlobe only, not in the rims as in the men. For decoration, they wore bead necklaces and copper armbands. Cherokee women always wore their hair long, cutting it only when in mourning for a family member.

Although their original clothing was not so ornate, the Cherokee men decorated their faces and bodies with tribal tattoo art and also painted themselves bright colours in times of war. In contrast, the Cherokee women did not paint themselves or wear tattoos.

After colonisation as with so many Native American tribes the clothes of the Cherokee began to change and the different tribes started to copy from one another and to use European styles. By the end of the 18th century, Cherokee men were dressing much like their white neighbours, with shirts, trousers and trade coats, though they had developed a distinctive Cherokee feathered turban. The women wore cotton blouses and full skirts decorated with ribbon appliqué, feathered turbans, and the calico tear dress.

Modern traditional Cherokee dress

In 1975, the Cherokee Tear Dress was named the official tribal dress for women of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma by proclamation of the National Council and has been in use ever since. It was named after the “Trail of Tears” when the Cherokee and many other Native American Tribes were forcibly relocated under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Fifteen thousand Cherokee were made to march from North Carolina to Oklahoma with the loss of four thousand lives due to exposure, starvation and disease. “Tear” is used because it reflects both the tears cried by the Cherokee people and that the material for clothing had to be torn as they did not have scissors or knives. The dress and cape worn with it were developed by a group of Cherokee ladies in the early 1970s after a young Cherokee woman was crowned Miss Indian American in a Kiowa buckskin dress.

The ancestors of the Cherokees of North Carolina managed to hide in the mountainous region of North Carolina during the relocation and so could stay there. The modern traditional dress of the Cherokees of North Carolina is not the Oklahoman tear dress, instead they nowadays wear colourful dresses which button up the front and have long sleeves similar to that of the prairie tribes. In addition, they wear a long apron, which originally was also used to serve as a basket. They wear a scarf, too. Originally, the women tied the scarf around their head while they were working; afterwards when it was taken off it was tied around the neck with the V hanging down the back

Source(s) of information

http://www.cherokee-nc.com/index.php?page=61; Cherokee dress http://www.nativetech.org/clothing/regions/region8.html; http://www.bigorrin.org/cherokee_kids.htm; http://www.yvwiiusdinvnohii.net/Cherokee/WendellCochran/WCochran0102TearDressFacts.htm; http://www.native-languages.org/clothing.htm and Myth of the Cherokee Tear Dress http://members.tripod.com/happytrails_2/newsletter/id8.html (all accessed 21 February, 2012).

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