Gayle Castañeda, the Castañeda Museum of Ethnic Costume founder and director, has been collecting ethnic dolls since the early 1950’s.  Her personal collection and that of the Museum include ethnic and folk dolls from around the world.  Gayle believes this type of doll can stimulate a person’s interest in learning about other peoples and cultures, with the added bonus of becoming more knowledgeable about world geography.

Several years ago, Gayle was invited to join the Tucson Doll Guild, a not-for-profit organization, whose members are dedicated to the study and enjoyment of all doll genres, (antique French and German, ball-jointed, ethnic, all styles of dolls from modern American manufacturers, etc.)  Members of the Guild include not only doll collectors, but also very talented artists who create unique, intricate dolls of all types.   Gayle would be happy to answer any questions about the Tucson Doll Guild.  Please email her at castanedamuseum@aol.com  if you would like more information.  The Tucson Doll Guild is a member of the United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC), with headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri.  In 2006, Gayle was thrilled to receive the annual, UFDC Award of Excellence medallion for the category of “Protection and  Preservation of Dolls”, a great honor.

Each year the UFDC holds a five-day convention in a different city, and in July of 2018, the convention will be held in Phoenix, Arizona.  We provide here a link to the UFDC website, where information about the organization and the Phoenix convention can be found. https://www.ufdc.org/convention/



At the convention, Gayle and Jan Gruenwald Espiritu, a UFDC member from southern California, will be co-presenting a program entitled “Get Your Kicks on Route 66 with Indian Dolls”.

photo by Jordan Gruenwald

(Just an aside, the terms “Indian”, “Native American”, or “First Nations”, are used interchangeably for our American indigenous peoples.)


Jan grew up in Wisconsin surrounded by Indian place names, such as Oshkosh, Milwaukee, Menominee, etc., and during family trips to historic sites, she became fascinated with the little Indian dolls sold in the gift shops.  Her personal collection of all types of Indian dolls has now grown to over 600 dolls.  Jan worked for the Wisconsin State Historical Society and gained an appreciation for local Native American culture.  She will explain how the Santa Fe Railroad, the Fred Harvey Company chain of hotels and restaurants, and Route 66, the “Mother Road”, all featured Indian crafts to promote tourism in the Southwest. She states that dolls have always been great souvenirs for tourists and are easy to pack. Their colorful costumes are attractive to the traveler, and after returning home, the dolls become delightful reminders of the trip or vacation,  “little story-telling artifacts”.  Plus, the dolls make charming gifts for family and friends.

Southwest Indian tribes were intriguing to travelers, and no one exploited “cultural tourism” better than the Fred Harvey Company.  Fred Harvey, an entrepreneurial genius, arrived in the U.S. from London in 1850, and worked his way up from dishwasher to own over 45 restaurants and “hospitality houses”/hotels along railway routes, principally that of the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe Railroad.  His success was partly due to the ingenious idea of hiring young, unmarried ladies from back East to serve as waitresses in his establishments.  These “Harvey Girls” were strictly chaperoned, wore distinctive uniforms, and certainly added an air of decorum to the Wild West. The Fred Harvey Company was given exclusive rights to develop and manage all dining facilities and hotels along the Santa Fe route, extending from Chicago to the Pacific Coast.  Harvey realized that the Indian tribes of New Mexico and Arizona and their handicrafts would provide a major incentive for the public to travel by rail to see these people and their pueblos, to see old Santa Fe, and, of course, the Grand Canyon.  The Fred Harvey Company continued to expand after Fred’s death (1901) under his sons’ leadership, keeping the name that made them successful.  In 1905, they opened Hopi House at the Grand Canyon, constructed to display and sell Indian jewelry, pottery, baskets, dolls, etc.  Indians were employed to demonstrate their crafts and to perform Indian dances for the tourists.  The Fred Harvey Company also opened newsstands and curio shops for passengers at many stops along the Santa Fe railway.  As a result, the Harvey Company became the largest purveyor of postcards in the country.

As did other traders dealing with Southwest Indian tribes, like John Hubbell with rugs at his Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona, the Harvey Company commissioned Indian artists to use designs/patterns and colors that sold well.  An example of this influence was the selling of clay “rain god” figures from Tesuque Pueblo in New Mexico.  This pueblo made clay figurines but did not have a specific “rain god”.  However, these figures were popular with tourists, and Harvey had the Indians make barrels full of them.  Although they were made for many years, they were very fragile, so not many survived.   Pictured here are two examples.


photo by Jordan Gruenwald

Tesuque Pueblo souvenir Rain Gods sold at Fred Harvey curio shops with postcard showing production.  Left: white slipped-clay, ca  1920’s   Right: Terra cotta-slipped clay with bright poster paint, ca  1950’s.

As the 20th century progressed, passenger train service declined, and automobile travel became popular.  As a marketing tool in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the Harvey Company offered one to three-day excursions called “detours” by motor vehicle.  From their major southwestern hotels, these caravans traveled to pueblos, ruins, and Spanish colonial churches.  Educated young ladies, costumed with Navajo blouses and jewelry, served as tour guides, and, of course, also encouraged tourists to buy Indian souvenirs.                                                                                    Although the Fred Harvey Company was sold in 1968, the brand and legacy continue to this day.

Route 66 was begun in 1926, originating in Chicago and eventually reaching Los Angeles. It closely followed the Santa Fe Railroad route.  (Many may remember the Nat King Cole song from 1946, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66”, penned that year by Bobby Troup.)  Through the decades, this route was used by more and more tourists, and the Fred Harvey Company curio shops were present, selling dolls made by Indians, dolls not Indian made but popular, such as the Skookums, and the commercially made Carlson dolls, that had clothing designed and beaded by Native American Indians.  Examples are shown here.


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photos by Jordan Gruenwald

Left: Skookum dolls were not made by Indians, but they were very popular souvenirs and were sold at the Fred Harvey curio shops around the 1920’s.  Originally designed by Mary McAboy, this Skookum is by Madame Hendren and includes her lucky coin.                                                                                                                                                                        Right: Many Carlson Indian dolls were sold at National Parks, like the Grand Canyon, and Route 66 curio shops. Although made commercially, Ann Carlson often hired Indians to design and bead the costumes. Shown are Hopi Indian Snake Dancers, ca 1950’s.

Following Jan’s presentation, Gayle will continue the program with examples of dolls made by members of various Arizona Native American tribes, beginning with three that had contact with the Harvey facilities.  (photos in this section by Gayle Castañeda)

NAVAJO    On display is a group of Navajo Yeibichai dancers. These carvings are not katsina/kachina dolls. The Yei are supernatural, holy beings of the Navajo people.  Actual Yeibichai dancers, representing the Holy People, participate in the Nightway, a sacred nine-day curing ceremony.  They are led by Talking God, whose mask features a corn symbol.  The end figure wearing long pants is Water Sprinkler, who provides a type of comic relief as he dances.  Dancers wear spruce ruffs around their necks, their bodies are covered in white clay, and the male dancers carry gourd rattles.  A complete group of dolls would consist of 14 figures, six men, six women, Talking God, and Water Sprinkler.  This group does not have the six women dancers.


maker unknown    ca 1984

The Navajo are renowned for their jewelry and woven rugs, sold today in Native American arts and crafts stores, Museum gift shops, trading posts, and now in renovated, original Fred Harvey Company establishments.  During the program, a Yei rug will be displayed showing Yei figures alternating with stalks of corn, a sacred plant.  This style of rug made its appearance in the early 1900’s, much to the chagrin of conservative Navajos.  However, this style was popular among buyers and thus continued to be woven.  To be safe, as the Yei are sacred and powerful entities, weavers may purposefully alter certain details of a rug.  This rug shows three sides/directions bordered by a Rainbow Guardian.  Navajo sand paintings and Yei rugs are oriented so that the top is East.  East does not necessarily need to be protected (the other directions do), as evil does not come from that direction.  Traditional influences dictate that the eyes and mouths of Yei figures should not be woven, so these parts are often embroidered onto the rug after it is finished.


made by Emma Thomas    ca early 1980’s

The Navajo reservation is the largest in the U.S. and has the largest group of Native American people.  The Navajo and Apache are Athabascan people whose ancestors arrived in the Southwest in approximately A.D. 1200 -1400, from northwestern Canada.  In Arizona and New Mexico, these related groups eventually settled in different areas and developed very different lifestyles, including dress.

HOPI    The Hopi are descendants of the ancient Ancestral Pueblo/Anasazi culture that existed from approximately A.D. 100 -1600 in the Four Corners area (where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah meet.)  Hopi arts and crafts include jewelry, pottery, and katsina/katchina dolls.  All these items were featured in the gift stores of the Fred Harvey hotels and are today, at their historic locations still in operation.   Both Hopi and Zuni peoples have particular beliefs concerning the katsina spiritual beings.  Unlike the Hopi, the Zuni are not inclined to sell katsina dolls to outsiders.  Traditionally, Hopi carve dolls from cottonwood roots.  There is a large number of what are called katsina dolls made by Navajo carvers and others, some beautifully done, but they are not true katsina dolls.  Presented in this program is Soyok Wuhti, Monster Woman.  During certain Hopi ceremonies, Soyok Wuhti threatens children: to cut off their heads with her knife or to carry them away in her basket.  Family members bargain with her, and the children promise to behave and are saved.  This carving shows a little boy who was not so lucky!


made by Silas Roy   date unknown

MOJAVE     The Mojave are a Yuman people of the Lower Colorado River, related to the Yuma/Quechan people living further south along the River.  The present Mojave reservation in the Needles, California, area is drastically reduced from the territory originally inhabited by these people.  The Mojave practiced chin tattooing and face and body painting, which can be seen on the Mojave clay doll presented here, date unknown.  Women were traditionally bare breasted and wore shredded willow bark not grass skirts.  The Yuma/Quechan also wore the bark skirts.  Starting in the late 1800’s, Mojave women were “encouraged” by white society to adopt the more modest style of Victorian clothing, blouse and skirt or a dress.  Before European contact, Mojave women wore netted capes decorated with clay, bone, and shell beads.  Afterward, European glass beads were made into choker necklaces of many strands, and then in the 1870’s–1880’s the netted, European glass bead capes began.  Blue and white beads were preferred.

The Mojave women were pottery makers and also made clay dolls for their children.  Their relatives, the Yuma/Quechan, were selling similar clay dolls as early as 1870 to white travelers heading to California.  When the Santa Fe Railroad passed through Needles, California, in 1883, it provided Mojave women the opportunity to sell their clay dolls and other ceramic items on the station platform and after 1908 inside the Fred Harvey hotel built there.  Mojave clay dolls were still being made throughout the 1950’s.


maker and date unknown

APACHE    As previously mentioned, the Apache are related to the Navajo, but after separating around A.D. 1700, the two peoples developed different lifestyles and dress.  The Apache dolls here illustrate three types of clothing styles.  One doll wears yellow ochre stained, buckskin attire.  Buckskin clothing was commonly used into the 1860’s, but then blouses and skirts of cotton material, often calico, were worn.  This was called “camp dress” and was modeled after white women’s Victorian fashion of the 1860’s – 1880’s.  Unique to the Western Apache groups of east-central Arizona was the beaded T-collar/necklace, which appeared at the beginning of the 1900’s.  The doll clad in the buckskin costume wears a T-collar.  An Apache woman in buckskin clothing before 1900 would not have been wearing one.  Today, however, this combination is used, an example being an Apache girl’s ceremonial attire,  worn during her Sunrise/Puberty Ceremony.  These outfits differ, as each young woman’s ensemble is uniquely designed for her and may be entirely of buckskin or, as this doll is clothed, of blouse and skirt of special fabric in the camp dress style, with a buckskin, fringed cape.  The ceremonial doll appearing here wears items of special significance associated with the Puberty Ceremony.  Gayle suggests the reader study more about this fascinating subject from book or internet sources, as there is too much information to present here.  The doll wearing a camp dress of calico material wears a T-collar/necklace with a beaded cape/shawl underneath.  The Apache women learned about these beaded, cape/shawl type necklaces from their western neighbors, the Yavapai, or directly from the Yuma, some of whom lived briefly on the Arizona San Carlos Apache Reservation during the last quarter of the 1800’s.












maker unknown    1974                                                                                                                                                  maker unknown    ca 1970 – 1975


made by Arlene Kast   1989


YAQUI     The traditional Yaqui homeland is situated  along the Río Yaqui of southern Sonora, Mexico.  (The modern city of Hermosillo, Sonora, has several Yaqui neighborhoods/barrios.)  In 1533, Spanish soldiers came into contact with the Yaqui people, and Jesuit priests introduced Christianity in the early 1600’s.  The Yaqui religion is a unique blend of their traditional beliefs and Catholicism.  From the beginning of European contact, Yaqui lands were coveted by outsiders.  In the following centuries, wars broke out as mining companies and large ranch owners wanted to expand into Yaqui territory.  Under the rule of Mexican dictator, Porfirio Díaz, especially during the years of 1904 -1907, Yaqui families were rounded up and forced onto train cattle cars and taken away to work as slaves on plantations in the Yucatán and Oaxaca, Mexico, where most perished. During those troubled times, many Yaquis fled, and some made their way to Arizona and formed their own barrios in several areas of the state.

The Yaqui have worked hard to maintain their traditions, and perhaps the most well-known figure in the public realm is the dear dancer.  However, shown here is a masked Pascola dancer made by a Yaqui carver from Pótam, Sonora, one of the traditional villages.  The Pascola dancer is an essential person for all fiestas and ceremonies. Acting as host, he engages the crowd with his dancing, joking, and the recounting of stories of the Yaqui people.  It is stated that the Pascola is a cultural historian.  When dancing to music of the harp or violin, the Pascola wears his mask on the back or side of his head.  The mask is worn over the face when flute and drum are played.  On display is an actual Pascola mask.  Symbols painted on the mask have specific meanings.  The cross style symbol on the forehead represents Our Father the Sun.  Under the eyes of both doll and mask, triangular shapes representing rain are painted.  Masks may have either human or animal features.  The white areas around the bottom of the figure’s legs represent wrapped strands of giant silk moth cocoons, that are filled with small pebbles, seeds, etc., to make sound when the Pascola dances.


made by Cirilo Ramírez of Pótam, Sonora    2010



                                                                                  leg rattles for Pascola dancer                                 


  maker unknown, from Vícam, Sonora    ca 1984


map of Arizona Native American tribes