Authentic Kachina (or Katsina) dolls are made only by Hopi artists. There are plenty of Native American tribes with figurine-carving traditions, but the Katsina is unique to the Hopi.
Katsina are called “dolls,” but that is a bit of a misnomer. They are actually religious icons, carved from cottonwood root and painted to represent figures from Hopi mythology.
For generations, Katsina have been used to teach Hopi children about their religion; no Hopi child has ever teethed on a Katsina, played house with them, or taken one to bed.
Genuine Katsina dolls are made by only a small number of Hopi carvers who have dedicated their lives to the art. It takes years of practice and religious study to master Katsina carving.
Wanderfoot was lucky to meet with one!
Philbert Honanie is Coyote Clan from the village of Hotevilla on Third mesa, near Flagstaff, Arizona. He is one of the first carvers to revitalize the old style or traditional method of Katsina doll carving.
Philbert only uses natural pigments that he collects and processes from around his village. He gathers the cottonwood root that he carves from the San Juan river in southern Utah.
Philbert carves to help people understand and appreciate the Hopi culture. He uses a pocket knife to carve his Katsina, and keeps his dolls simple to help people appreciate the designs and motifs used in Hopi carvings.
These pictures do not even begin to show the beauty of Philbert’s Katsina.