American Native Arts and Antiques

Exceptional Current and Vintage Native American Arts

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Woman Elder; Crow Doll in "Elk Tooth" Dress


This Plains Style Woman doll is wearing a traditional outfit featuring a red trade wool dress decorated with beaded ribbon trim and many cowrie shells which look like elk teeth. For the Crow tribe in the 1870-1900 era the elk tooth dress was the epitome of Crow status and style. (see an 1890 Crow elk tooth dress in photos below). In the 1800's sometimes bone carved to look like elk teeth was used on the dresses (An early "knock-off?") This large doll has been meticulously crafted by Paul St. John, Mohawk craftsman.

This doll is dressed as woman elder of the Crow or Apaaslooke', a tribe in Montana. Paul has made similar dolls for exhibits and collections of several tribal museums, MicMac, Maliseet, Mohawk and Passamaquoddy - as well as Mt. Kearsarge Museum in NH. It would be accurate to call this a "Museum Quality" piece.

This doll is 11.5" high, (her 3" long red dyed hair feather extends 1.5" above her head...making total height 13") her outstretched arms are 9" across and she is about 1.5"-2" deep. She is of soft very light Native tanned leather. She has long greying braids (of horse hair/mane & tail).

Not only is this doll visually correct for the era, the very materials Paul uses are traditional and accurate. The woolen material used in this doll's clothing is vintage - this wool was purchased by Paul when an old woolen mill in NY state went out of business and sold old woolen stocked fabric. She wears a double strand bead necklace of blue, yellow and red glass seed beads with a larger white and a larger blue vintage glass bead at the center of the strands. She has blue and yellow seed bead earrings with long natural porcupine quills. Her moccasins have a red and yellow bead design on the toe tops. She wears red trade wool leggings which wrapped and tied just above her knees. She has a brown leather belt at her waist which is tied in the backThe doll is made of soft tanned leather, some smoked deer hide used for her braid wrapping and legging wraps is from the Pleasant Point Maine Passamaquoddy reservation. (Sipayik) Paul makes his vintage dolls dressed for different occasions from quite formal to everyday clothing.

This is a "no face" doll - Several NE Native American tribes made "no face dolls" and there are stories and legends about why the dolls have no face. One story is that the Creator and the child together should determine the “personality” of the doll. Another story is that if a face is painted on the doll, the child will begin to identify too closely with the doll’s personality and a pretty face may cause conceit or self-pride. Yet another is that the dolls were so beautifully made, and given beautiful clothing that when someone added a beautiful face, the doll itself became vain.

Crow Woman Elder Doll
Crow Woman Elder Doll - Entire
Crow Woman Elder Doll - Head
Crow Woman Elder Doll - Leggings and Moccasins
Crow Woman Elder Doll - Back
Chief Little Wound, son and wife in elk tooth dress
Weight: 13 oz