Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Innu Tea Doll

This sweet little doll was recently given to me by a family friend. She found several at a yard sale, and shared one with me, along with its history. The doll holds an important part in the history of the Innu of Labrador, the last known hunter/nomadic people of North America. Black tea was a valuable commodity; and the members of the community were expected to help carry this precious cargo when they travelled to new hunting grounds. Hunters consumed the tea to keep their energy strong, and in addition, the respected elders were guaranteed a supply of tea. The handcrafted doll, made with a fabric body, caribou skin face, and dressed in traditional clothes of the Innu was stuffed with loose tea and provided an extra cache of tea in case the original supply dwindled. If the tea supply was low, it might be necessary to cut open a doll and share the tea. Later, the doll would be refilled and returned to the child. Although no longer made for their original purpose, the tradition of making tea dolls continues as the elder Innu women of Labrador, pass on the technique to the younger women; teaching them about this important part of their history.
There is a collection of Innu Tea dolls in storage in the Smithsonian museum that are very elaborate and demonstrate the clothing of the Innu people, and the complexity of the tea dolls.
Thank you Roxanne for sharing this little treasure with me!


Marilyn Miller said...

Indeed, what a treasure! I had not heard of Innu Tea Dolls. Fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Now THAT'S unique!! :-)

Unknown said...

This is fascinating! I have never heard this story before. Thanks so much for sharing!

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