Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Faceless Cork Husk Dolls

Corn husk dolls made by Ronnie Reitter
For a Ganondagan Brand Development workshop at the Rochester Ad Council recently, we were asked to "bring a physical object [we] feel represents Ganondagan and be prepared to tell the group why". I reflected quite a bit on my assignment and kept coming back to my faceless corn husk doll. It captures so much for me about Ganondagan. The story is often told at Ganondagan events. I first heard Ronnie Reitter tell it- about the girl who was so vain she repeatedly got distracted from the Creator's message to watch over the children because she was gazing at her own reflected image. She ignored the Creator's repeated warnings. Finally, the Creator took her face away so she wouldn't be self-absorbed and distracted from her community role anymore. That is why corn husk dolls are made faceless to this day, as a reminder of our community responsibility to care for others and that "we are all equal".

Good toys teach, and this one teaches a powerful lesson of our responsibility to the community and to the next generation. Corn is one of the Three Sisters' food staples; and every part of what is taken from the natural world is put to good use-including corn husks. Dolls are just one thing that can be made from corn husks. This children's toy is made without money from materials readily available in the natural world. It is a sustainable toy and easily returns to Mother Earth. It reminds me, too, of Ganondagan's efforts to bring back good, healthy traditional corn through the White Corn project.  And the dolls can be made at Ganondagan and sold in our Gift Shop to help support Ganondagan while educating others.

Anyone can learn to make this toy, including me- who has no talent for crafts. Ronnie Reitter taught me to make mine as part of Ganondagan staff's commitment to sharing their knowledge of traditional values and crafts. The relationship with Ronnie as teacher makes mine special for me. But mine is unfinished- she is not yet "dressed", marking the time when trade came, and scrapes of trade goods started being used to put traditional "outfits" on the dolls. For me, this awareness is connected to my wish to learn more. There is so much I don't know or understand. I am hoping for a workshop on corn husk doll dressing and its meanings.    

Mattie Schmitt
Ganondagan Board Member


  1. I would like to come to the workshop and make a doll for my grand-daughter. Very inspiring blog.

  2. I’m so glad you liked this piece. We’ll discuss this idea in the Programming and Partnership Committee as a possible workshop for the coming year. Stay tuned!

    Mattie Schmitt


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