Nizhoni Gallery

How we know what Kachinas look like

By the late nineteenth century, only a few of the Pueblo peoples, such as the Hopi, who lived in very isolated locations, still actively participated in the cycle of Kachina ceremonies. It was at this time that early ethnologists began to collect systematic information about the appearance, history, and attributes of the many Kachinas. One of the most notable instances of this research was the 1899-1900 expedition among the Hopi, conducted by Dr. Jesse Walter Fewkes of the Bureau of American Ethnology (a department of the Smithsonian Institution). Fewkes described his methodology as follows:

Believing that a series of pictures made by the cleverest artists among the Hopis would be a valuable means of studying the symbolism of the tribe, the author hired one of them to make him a series of drawings of all the personations of supernatural beings which appear in Hopi festivals.... The author found several Hopi men competent to paint a collection of pictures of the kind desired, and finally chose for that work Kutcahonauu, or White-Bear, a man of about 30 years old, who was believed to be the most competent of all who were considered.... His uncle, Homovi...drew some of the best pictures.... A few of the pictures were drawn by Winuta, whose work, like that of Homovi, is unmodified by white influences. To facilitate the painting the author provided the artists with paper, pencils, brushes, and pigments; he left the execution of the work wholly to the Indians, no suggestion being made save the name of the god whose representation was desired....When the paintings were delivered, the author wrote under them the names of the beings represented, with such information as could be gathered concerning the special symbolism upon them.

The result was a series of over 260 pictures of Kachinas. These were published, along with Fewkes's observations on the Hopi festival cycle, in "Hopi Kacinas Drawn by Native Artists," in the Twenty-first Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1899-1900 (the volume was actually published in 1903). The drawings of Kutcahonauu, Homovi, and Winuta have proven a very valuable resource, not only for anthropologists but also for carvers of other pueblos where the Kachina traditions had been broken in the period following European contact in the 16th century.

In the table below we have reproduced six of the drawings collected by Fewkes in 1899-1900, alongside more recent representations of the same Kachinas, drawn from the collection here at the Schingoethe Center for Native American Cultures at Aurora University. The similarities and differences help point up an important truth about the Kachina traditions: they were not static, but were constantly being remade. No exact count of Kachinas is possible (various authorities cite between 300 and 500 different ones), because new Kachinas were added at various times to the festival cycle, while others were discarded.

Drawings collected by Fewkes (1899-1900); roman numerals are plate numbers in the original article. Corresponding Kachina dolls from the collection of
the Schingoethe Center for Native American Cultures

"Mana," PL. VIII
Kachin Mana (Maiden)
"Kachin Mana (Maiden)," made by
Leroy Pooley (Hopi). 1989.6.119

Natacka Naamu
"Natacka Naamu," PL. IX
Nata-aska (Black Ogre) Kachina
"Nata-aska (Black Ogre) Kachina," by
Lawrence Namoki, Polacca, Arizona

"Kwahu," PL. XV
Kwahu (Eagle) Kachina
"Kwahu (Eagle) Kachina" by
Raymond M. Chee (Navajo).

"Humis," PL. XXI
Hemis (Home Dancer) Kachina
"Hemis (Home Dancer) Kachina," by
Victor Charley (Pueblo). 1998.6.11

"Patun," PL. LII
>Patung (Squash) Kachina
"Patung (Squash) Kachina," Navajo.

"Paiakyamu," PL. LVIII
Paiyakyamu (Hano Clown)
"Paiyakyamu (Hano Clown)
Kachina," Hano Pueblo, c. 1930.


To see and compare many more Kachinas...

Visit the Nizhoni Gallery in the Schingoethe Center for Native American Cultures at Aurora University. For more information about our facility, hours, programs, and driving directions, just click on the links.

Exhibit Companion to "The World of the Kachina"

We have prepared an Exhibit Companion that includes much of the written material in the exhibit, as well as photos of examples of various types of Kachinas and other related material. This 24-page booklet may be useful in the classroom, for further study of Kachinas, or as preparation for your visit to the Museum. You may view or print the Exhibit Companion to "The World of the Kachina" by clicking here. (Adobe Acrobat Reader is required.)

Selected bibliography on Kachinas

Bassman, Theda. Hopi Kachina Dolls and Their Carvers. West Chester, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 1991.

Branson, Arthur T. Hopi Kachina Dolls. Tucson, AZ: Treasure Chest Publications, 1992.

Colton, Harold S. Hopi Kachina Dolls with a Key to their Identification. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1959.

Fewkes, Jesse Walter. "Hopi Kacinas Drawn by Native Artists." 21st Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology; 3-126. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1903.

Fewkes, Jesse Walter. "Tusayan Katcinas." 15th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1897.

Selected links related to Kachinas

Be aware that many sites about "Kachina Dolls" are mainly interested in selling them. To get better search results, include terms such as "information" or "history" in your query when using web search engines.

"Authenticating the Kachina Doll," by Patty Baldwin,

Lesson Plan on Kachinas (4th - 6th grade),

"Kachina Dolls," by Barton Wright,

"Kachina Society and Ceremonies,

"Types of Hopi Kachinas,"

"Southwest Culture,"