Kaya is a Native American doll who represents the Nez Perce people that congregated in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. Although Kaya was not one of the three American Girl Dolls who were created initially, she does represent the earliest doll, in regards to America’s history. Kaya represents a child in 1764.
Every Human in America Is An Immigrant
According to many scholars, the United States initially had no indigenous people, and all humans who eventually populated the country were immigrants. The Native Americans would have been the first immigrants, and they came from Asia during the Ice Age, when the Bering Straight was the Bering Land Bridge.
Kaya’s tribe, the Nez Perce, were the Native Americans who settled very near the place of that migration.
Most Americans regret that the British came to America and strienpped the Native Americans of their homeland, but an old Nez Perce myth tells of the time before they caed to America–a time when the natives were the animals of the region.
Smart educators have learned that the best way to teach a child is to allow him or her to re-live or become involved with what they are studying, and one of the brilliant things about the American Girl Doll Company is that it has harnessed play as a powerful teaching tool.
“Nez Perce children were taught that humans were the last–and therefore the youngest–creatures on earth.” ” Welcome to Kaya’s World, p. 21
“Long ago, when the people were first on the earth and animals could still talk, a little boy strayed too far from his village. For days, the boy wandered lost, without food or water. Then one day, he came upon Hah-hahts, Grizzly Bear.
“Now Hah-hahts had heard from his friend Coyote that Nimíipuu were coming to live on the land. Hah-hahts had never seen Nimíipuu, but he was sure he hated them. He thought Nimíipuu wanted to take away the land he loved.
Hah-hahts reared up on his hind legs and bared his sharp teeth and claws. ‘Child of Nimíipuu!’ he growled. ‘Do you think you can take my land from me? I will tear you to pieces with one swipe of my paw!’
“The boy just stood gazing at Hah-hahts. Finally he said in a quiet voice, All you ca do is kill me. I am not afraid of death. Death is a part of life.’
“Hah-hahts stopped in his tracks. ‘All other animals fear me, but you do not!” he said. ‘You are as brave and as wise as Coyote. You must deserve to live on this land. Come with me. I will show you all you need to know about your new home.’
“Hah-hahts flipped the boy onto his back and carried him off into the high country. He showed the boy the greams where Salmon ran in the spring and the homes of Deer and Elk. He climbed along the backbone of the mountains and showed the boy the lands where Buffalo lived.
“He pointed out huckleberry and serviceberry bushes and the meadows where camas bulbs grew.
“Finally, Hah-hahts took the boy back to his village. ‘Now you know all I know about this land,’ he said. ‘Go and tell your people that as long as Nimíipuu honor the land, it will be theirs to use.'” Welcome to Kaya’s World, p. 22
“They learned to look to their elders, the animals, for wisdom and strength in the face of danger. From the wold they learned to protect their young, to be quick and sure in hunting, and to use their wits to survive. People who had wolf wyakins, like Kaya’s father, Toe-ta, were known for their strong hunting powers.
“Today people can learn more about wolves by visiting the Wolf Education Center in Winchester, Idaho. The Nez Perce tribe adopted a pack of wolves that were featured in the documentaries Wolf:Return of a Legend and Wolves at our Door.” Welcome to Kaya’s World, p. 21
“All men were made by the Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers.” – Chief Joseph
“I believe much trouble would be saved if we opened our hearts more. ” – Chief Joseph
Who Was Chief Joseph?
“It does not require many words to speak the truth.” – Chief Joseph
“Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, Hinmatóowyalahtq̓it in Americanist orthography, popularly known as Chief Joseph or Young Joseph (March 3, 1840 – September 21, 1904), succeeded his father Tuekakas (Chief Joseph the Elder) as the leader of the Wal-lam-wat-kain (Wallowa) band of Nez Perce, a Native American tribe indigenous to the Wallowa Valley in northeastern Oregon, in the interior Pacific Northwest region of the United States.
“He led his band during the most tumultuous period in their contemporary history when they were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in the Wallowa Valley by the United States federal government and forced to move northeast, onto the significantly reduced reservation in Lapwai, Idaho Territory. A series of events that culminated in episodes of violence led those Nez Perce who resisted removal, including Joseph’s band and an allied band of the Palouse tribe, to take flight to attempt to reach political asylum, ultimately with the Lakota led by Sitting Bull, who had sought refuge in Canada.” Wikipedia
“Treat all men alike. Give them the same law. Give them an even chance to live and grow.” – Chief Joseph
The first Native Americans had no horses. The Spanish brought the first horses to America during the 1500’s and after that time, the Native American lifestyle was changed.
“Kaya’s grandmother told her, ‘When I was a girl, we didn’t even have horses.’ When Kaya was a girl, horses had been part of Nez Perce life for only fifty years.” Welcome to Kay’s World, p. 5.
“Grandparents, or elders, were the main teachers in the communiy because they had the most patience, wisdom, and experience. They taught children to have sharp memories. Everything in Nez Perce culture was passed on by example and through songs, stories, and legends that children learned by heart.” Welcome to Kay’s World, p. 16.
“Kaya knew, too, that even the earth brought change. She knew that when the snows moved across the mountains, she and her family would move, too, just as they always had done, following the seasons to gather their food. Already change had come to her people. Beside the longhouse fire, Kay’s grandmother told stories of a time before horses, and the changes the horses had brought. Some of the changes were good ones–swift travel, good food supplies, new friends and trade. But there were bad changes, too–deadly diseases, enemy raids.
“Kaya’s grandmother hinted at an even greater change as well–change brought by strangers with pale faces from far away. For Kaya, these changes were no more than whispers in the wind. She knew that if she did her best to be a good Nimiipuu, she would have the strength and spirit to survive whatever came her way.” Welcome to Kay’s World, p. 1.
“I want the white people to understand my people. ” – Chief Joseph
The Nez Perce became horse enthusiasts and horse breeders. Ultimately, they crossbred Appaloosa horses with a another, hearty horse, and even today, the Nez Perce people are characterized as Indians with spotted horses.
“According to tradition, the Nez Perce first saw horses while visiting their friends, the Cayuses, who had traded for them with their southern neighbors, the Shoshones. The New Perce valleys turned out to be ideal for raising horses, and the New Perce people soon became known for their swift horses and fine horsemanship.” Welcome to Kay’s World, p. 6.
Image Credit National Geographic Here
“Katie Harris is photographed with her Appaloosa. Harris made most of the horse trappings as well as her own traditional outfits herself, including the bead work. Some of the trappings are passed down from older generations but the girls like to make their own to continue the tradition.”
Kaya’s horse Steps High is integral to her story:
“From the back of her beloved horse, Steps High, Kay could see the sheltering peaks of the Bitterroot Mountains before her. She could hear the rushing waters of the river and the splashing of the salmon who offered themselves as food for her people. She could smell the familiar scents of smoke from the tepee fires and feel a quiver of delight run along her horse’s back. Kaya felt the same quiver run through her own body.” Welcome to Kay’s World, p. 1.
“Nez Perce children grew up with horses. As infants, they rocked in cradleboards hung from saddle hons. As toddlers, they rode tied to the saddle behind older relatives on trails to hunting or root-gathering grounds. By the time they were nine or ten, children rode well, and they knew how to train and care for their horses. The Nez Perce people treaed all horses with respect and honored their own with fine trappings.” Welcome to Kaya’s World, p. 18.
Notice the decorative saddle bags and blankets on Kaya’s horse.
“Today, as in Kaya’s time, men, women, girls, and boys parade their horses in heir finest regalia, or outfits, to show pride in Nez Perce artistry and culture.” Welcome to Kaya’s World, p. 19.
Also notice that Steps High has a little, white foal and note the very tall horn on Steps High’s Saddle. In the same way that the Nez Perce mothers would carry their babies, Kaya carried her doll on a cradleboard that was strapped to the horse’s saddle horn.
“The birth of a child was a welcome event in a Nez Perce village. About a month or two before a baby was born, the mother moved to a small, separate birthing lodge. During this time, she spoke and ate only with female relatives, who brought her food and instructed her on childbirth and infant care. As soon as the child was born, the village crier announced the birth to the rest of the community. Relatives rought gifts and celebrated with feasts for the mother and baby, and all gave thanks for the new life.
“Cradleboards allowed mothers to use their hands while keeping babies close by. Mothers could wear the cradleboards on their baks, prop them against a tree trunk, or hang them on a saddle. Often, the rocking motion of a walking horse wold lull the baby to sleep.”
“A cradleboard, or tee-kas, kept a baby safe and snug unil he or she was ready to walk. Nez Perce parents believed that cradleboards gave children straight backs and legs and strong spirits.” Welcome to Kaya’s World, p. 12.
Image Credit: Nez Perce Today
“Some of you think an Indian is like a wild animal. This is a great mistake.” – Chief Joseph
An authentic doll and cradleboard. Image Credit Nez Perce National Historical Museum
“Children used their imaginations to make their own toys. One elder woman remembered making a miniature village ot of stones and shells. She wrapped the stones in bits of deerskin to make people and used mussel shells for horses. Then she made tiny bows out of grass and placed them by the people to protect them as they slept.” Welcome to Kaya’s World, p. 15.
An Authentic Nez Perce Doll – Image Credit: prices4antiques.com
“Girls in Kaya’s time loved their dolls as dearly as they do today. They tucked their dolls into miniature cradleboards and dressed them in carefully beaded buckskin dresses, just as real mothers did.” Welcome to Kaya’s World, p. 14.
Kaya’s Hat and Parfleche
“Small painted parfleches, or rawhide storage envelopes, held doll accessories and other tiny toys. When girls grew up, they learned how to pack large parfleches with all their family’s belongings.” Welcome to Kaya’s World, p. 15.
Nez Perce Parfleches and Women’s Clothing
What clothes did the Nez Perce women wear?
“The Nez Perce women during the 1700’s wore large basket hats they wove out of dried leaves and plant fibers. The women of the tribe wore long dresses that covered them from the neck to their mid calves. The women also wore knee length moccasins during the winter. The Nez Perce made a large bag called a parfleche to store and carry their food and clothing. Parfleche were made from tough hides, and were often beautifully decorated. Nez Perce Clothes were decorated with beads made from a variety of materials that included shells, bones, pebbles, claws, nuts, seeds, porcupine quills, horns, pieces of metal and bird talons.” Read More Here
Authentic Nez Perce Parfleches – Image Credit Nez Perce National Historical Museum
To increase the usefulness of their horses, the Nez Perce attached travois. Before they had horses, travois were attached to dogs, and they were the pack animals.
A traditional travois was made by lashing together [tying together] 2 larger tree poles and by lashing smaller poles across them to join them and make a flat surface.
The plural form of travois is travois.
The larger poles were also tied or attached to the dog or the horse.
The words Nez Perce [Nez Perce is is pronounced “nezz purse” in English. It comes from the French name for the tribe, Nez Percé (pronounced nay per-say.)]
Chief’s daughter – Nakoaktok, English name Francine, from Blunden Harbour or Ba’as in Kwak’wala, of the Nakwaxda’xw tribe. A chief’s daughter from the Nakoaktok nation. Shown wearing copper headpieces, abalone earrings, nose ring, and inscribed metal bracelets. – Image from Wikipedia
White settlers had seen other native Americans with pierced noses, and they named Kaya’s people Nez Perce. In reality, the Nez Perce rarely pierced their noses. The lady in the photo above was from the Nakoaktok nation, which was just north of Washington, where the Nez Perce settled.
During the Summer, Kaya’s People Lived in Teepees
Image Credit: Nez Perce National Historical Park
Image Credit: Nez Perce National Historical Park
Chief Joseph’s Longhouse – digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu
During the Winter, Most of the Nez Perce Lived in Lonhouses
Longhouses were sort of like teepee duplexes or apartments. They looked like several teepees joined together, and several families lived in each longhouse.
“When snow began to fall in the high country, most Nez Perce families returned to their permanent villages in the protected canyons. There, they cooked and slept in long, mat-covered houses. Each longhouse was home to several families–and sometimes the entire village!
“Dressed in warm hides, girls and boys helped their relatives prepare food and make clothes, baskets, and weapons. As they worked, they listened to the legends and stories their elders told. Over time, they learned the stories by heart and repeated them to their children’s children.” Welcome to Kaya’s World, p. 10.
For extra protection, woven mats were attached to the outer shell of both the longhouses and the teepees. To anchor them, long poles rested against the mats.
The Bitterroot Mountains – Kaya’s Ancient Homelands
“Kaya began each day with a prayer of thanks to Hun-Ya-wat, the Creator, for the earth, the sky, the water, and all the living things around her. Kaya’s people believed that their spirits were part of the land–a land of rugged peaks and deep canyons, dense forests and vast grasslands, gently rolling hills and swift-moving rivers. For thousands of years, Kaya’s people had taken care of he land, and it had given them everything hey needed to survive and grow strong.” Welcome to Kay’s World, p. 2.
“The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it.” – Chief Joseph
Facts about the Nez Perce Native Indian Tribe
The Nez Perce were essentially hunter-gatherers, especially before they acquired horses. After they had horses, they began traveling farther to hunt for game. They also fished for salmon.
“Danger was always present in the Nez Perces’ lives. A small fish harvest meant that food stores might not last through the winter. A harsh winter might put off the first root gatherings, leaving the village short of food during the early spring. Dry summers could spark devastating mountain fires. And always, enemy raiders and animal predators loomed just outside the safe confines of the village.” Welcome to Kaya’s World, p. 20.
The Food that Kaya Gathers
What Food did the Nez Perce Eat?
“The Nez Perce tribe were one of the most numerous and powerful tribes of the Plateau Culture area. They lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle fishing, hunting, or gathering wild plants for food…. The introduction of the horse in the 1700’s brought about a change in lifestyle and many of the people traveled to the Great Plains to hunt buffalo. They adopted some of the ideas of the Great Plains native Indians including the use of the tepee which were covered with buffalo hides and some items of clothing made from buffalo hides.”
“The food that the Nez Perce tribe ate included salmon and fish and a variety of meats from the animals that they hunted. They supplemented their protein diet with seeds, nuts and fruits and used cornlike roots to make ‘kouse’ ”
Read More Here
What language did the Nez Perce tribe speak?
“The Nez Perce tribe spoke in a Sahaptian dialect of the Penutian language. They call themselves ‘Nimiipu’, which means “the people”. Read More Here
What transportation did the Nez Perce use? Dugout Canoes
“The Nez Perce tribe built dugout canoes built dugout canoes made from the hollowed-out logs of large trees. The men hollowed logs with controlled fire that softened the timber so they could carve and shape their canoe to have a flat bottom with straight sides. The dugout canoes were important to the way of life of the Nez Perce as semi-nomadic fishers and hunters and was a perfect means of transportation for travel along fast streams and shallow waters of the Snake, Salmon, and Clearwater Rivers and their tributaries.” Read More Here
The Nez Perce tribe and the Lewis and Clark Expedition
“Lewis and Clark encountered the Nez Perce tribe in October 1805.” Read More Here
“The first white men of your people who came to our country were named Lewis and Clark. They brought many things that our people had never seen. They talked straight. These men were very kind. ” – Chief Joseph
What weapons did the Nez Perce use?
The weapons used by the Nez Perce were spears, knives, bows and arrows and clubs.
What clothes did the Nez Perce men wear?
“Traditional Nez Perce clothes were made of shredded cedar bark, deerskin, or rabbit skin. However with the introduction of the horse, and the ability to hunt buffalo on the Great plains, they used buffalo hides to make their clothes. The clothes worn by the men varied according to the season but generally they wore breechcloths and leggings, shirts and robes. Blankets and gloves were frequently used to keep out the cold. Nez Perce clothes were often belted and they wore moccasins on their feet. It was customary to decorate their clothes with fringes. Breastplates were worn for decoration purposes and made from the narrow dentallum shells acquired in trading with the coastal tribes and later they were made from buffalo bones and were called “pipe bones”. Armbands, wristbands and anklets were also worn for special ceremonies. Headdresses were made of feathers, but did not trail to the floor. Their hair was kept long and decorated with plaits and beads for special occasions.” Read More Here
When Kaya arrives, she is dressed in a simple and plain deerskin-like dress and moccassins.
“The clothes that Nez Perce girls wore, like everything else in their lives, came from the natural world around the. Girls sewed together deer, elk, or sheep ides to make long, fringed dresses. A well-made dress was a gift to the Creator and an honor to the woman or girl who made it.” Welcome to Kaya’s World, p. 26
“Womem preferred to use the furs of female animals for dresses. They believed that an animal passed along qualities such as swiftness or bravery to the person who wore its skin.” Welcome to Kaya’s World, p. 28.
How to Prepare Deer Hide to Become Clothes
- Scraping – Women stretched hides on wooden frames to flatten them and prevent them from shrinking. They cleaned the inside of ht skin with stone or bone scrapers.
- Soaking – To remove the hair, women dusted the hides with wood ashes and soaked them in water. After a few das, the hair was loose enoughto take off with scrapers made out of a deer or elk bone–and a lot of elbow grease!
- Tanning – To tan the hides, women carefully rubbed a paste of crushed animal brains onto the skin. Then they smoked the hides to make them waterprood and durable.
- Planning – I took two skins to make one dress–one skin for the back and one for the front. The hides were laid upside down so that thetails were at the top. [p. 26]
- Making Sinew – Women made sinew thread by separating the tendons of buffalo, elk, or other large animals. They licked the end of the thread and twisted it to make a sharp point. While they wee working, they kept the rest of the sinew balled up in their mouths so that it stayed moist and flexible.
- Instead of needle and thread, women used a sharp tool called an awl to poke holes in the deerskin. Then they threaded sinew through the holes to lace the edges together.
- Finishing Touch – To make the yoke, or top part of the dress, women folded the tail of the deer over and sewed it down. They left on the tail as a sign of respect for the deer. – Welcome to Kaya’s World – pgs. 26 -27.
Pow Wow Clothes
“Young girls clothes were usually plain and pracical. But girlsalso spent hours decorating special outfits with elaborate patterns of quills, shells, and beads. Girls exccitedly loooked forward to the honor of wearing their beautiful dresses at a tribal ceremony or feast. .
. . .
“In Kaya’s time, women would have used colorful porcupine quills or painted designs to give their dresses unique style.
“Women attached long ribbons of fringe by threading them through tiny slits in the dress and then knotting or beading the fringes to keep them in place,
. . .
“Dresses were fringed along the bottom, sleeves, and side seams. Fringes added grace to a woman’s movements.” Welcome to Kaya’s World, p. 28.
Kaya’s Shawl Dress
Both of the above of Kaya’s Dresses are Jingle Dresses.
The above is not a Jingle Dress. It is Kaya’s Pow Wow Dress of Today.
The above is not a Jingle Dress. It is Kaya’s Pow Wow Dress of Today III
The following video shows people from different tribes beading and sewing their costumes and performing in Pow Wows. One of he ladies performs the Jingle Dance. Kaya has Jingle Pow Wow Dresses, as well as other kinds of Pow Wow Dresses.
Image Credit National Geographic Here
“I am Niimiipuu, the people also known as Nez Perce,” says Angel McFarland-Sobotta. “As a University of Washington graduate I now coordinate the Nez Perce language program.”
Image Credit National Geographic Here
“I dance to give thanks to Great Grandfather for giving us wonderful things–songs and dances, animals, birds, creatures, and insects; trees and plants and all human beings,” says Fabian Fontenelle, a powwow dancer of Omaha and Zuni descent.
Photo by Ben Marra
“The outfit I wear was given to me by my father,” says Ardell Scalplock, a Siksika powwow dancer. “My dad and I traveled to many powwows and he always taught me to have a kind word for everyone we meet. I’ve tried my best to make my dad proud, and I hope his legacy will always be carried on through me and my children.”
Photo by Ben Marra