Hopi Kachina dolls are usually wood with painted designs. They are carved from cottonwood
roots and can be 1 to 18 inches tall. They can be male or female, shaped and painted to depict
clowns, spirits, the seasons, maidens and braves. They sometimes have eagle feather
headdresses, leather boots and jewelry that has been handed down from previous
generations. They are a common sight hanging on the walls in Hopi households.
Thus, the gifts the kachinas give to the audience as part of the dance are understood
by the Hopi as na'mangwu (gift burden) -- they are gifts that symbolize the prosperity,
fulfillment, long life, etc. that are rewards for the constant burden of living according
to the moral imperatives that underpin the Hopi lifeway.
They are metaphorical expressions of the obligatory burden of the kachinas to the
people, being symbols of the kachinas' promise of bringing life fulfillment to the Hopi if
the Hopi live by the tenets of the Hopi way of life.
Remember that rain is the ultimate gift from the kachinas, for it insures that corn will
grow and the community will survive.
Hopi principles and practices of living are packaged in beautifully evocative kachina song
words and phrases. The songs challenge the audience, individually and collectively, to
weigh the meaning of the words and, in so doing, mentally revisit instances of discord
that may endanger the community's well-being.
In both their admonishment of these transgressions and their recall of the past
perfect world, the kachinas inspire the Hopi listeners toward actions that will restore
harmony and insure the health and continuity of the community. When the songs are
performed as part of ritual performances, they evoke reverence as well as contribute
to an experiential sense that helps every Hopi to connect to these ideals in a heartfelt
Because the words and phrases stimulate vivid mental images, they are effective
reminders of the ideal life and of the practices that must be followed to attain this
life. In addition, the songs, after they are ceremonially (publicly) performed, are
intended to be sung as people go about their daily lives -- as they work in their fields
and as they go about their household tasks.
Children fantasize about kachinas, using gifts from the kachinas as they play pretending
to be kachinas. In this way, the do's and don'ts of living the Hopi way are instilled
throughout an individual's lifetime through constant exposure to these principles.
Hopi Kachina Song:
Uma yeep itaatawiyu
Pas kur antsa
Yaayanhaqam qatsi yeesiwa
Maana alöngkimi wuuve'e
Qatsi naatuwaniw' aye'e alöngkiva'a
The words roughly translated into English:
You, here, listen to our song
When those butterfly maidens
[Hopi girls] learn our song
They will sing it as they grind corn
It must be true that life is lived in this way
When a girl visits a home not her own
She ought to be seen [singing] and
Overview of Kachina Dolls
Hopi native Americans are recognized as the first
Native Americans to create kachina dolls in the
image of their Kachina Spirits. Other tribes later
adopted similar kachina doll making skills, but
elaborated their designs to include fur, leather,
beads and other realistic objects in their kachina
doll making practices.
The Hopi conceive of the arrival of the kachinas,
also called Katsinas, as coming with a "gift burden."
That is, every Hopi individual carries with himself
or herself the obligation and constant concern to do
the right thing while caring for one another.