American Girl Doll “Kaya” Captures Authentically Native Culture

American Girl Doll “Kaya” Captures Authentically Native Culture

Posted By Paul G May 31st, 2017 Blog

Children’s toy teaches about a thriving community before European settlement.

The award-winning American Girl Doll line was created by Pleasant Company and features different characters from the history of the USA, including Felicity (a colonial girl from Williamsburg, VA in 1774), Josefina (a Hispanic girl from New Mexico in 1824) and Addy (an African-American girl who fights for freedom from slavery in 1864).

These dolls, with their accompanying books and accessories, offer an interesting and interactive way for children to learn about American history through imagination and play.


Enter to win your own Kaya doll!


Kaya (pronounced Ky-yah) was the eighth historical character released by the American Girl Doll franchise and she represents early Native American culture. She was originally released in 2002 and is part of the BeForever collection. Kaya also has a number of accessories, including a knit blanket sweater, a deerskin outfit, a teepee and bedroll, a saddle and more.Kaya offers girls today a way of imagining what growing up would have been like as a native girl in the 1700s. By playing with the doll and reading the stories, young girls are able to understand and respect a life different than their own.

Kaya offers girls today a way of imagining what growing up would have been like as a native girl in the 1700s. By playing with the doll and reading the stories, young girls are able to understand and respect a life different than their own.

Meet Kaya

Nine-year-old Kaya is an independent, adventurous, energetic and curious young girl. She is active and loves to swim in the river every morning. She cares for the horses and she loves listening to her grandmother tell stories. She has a mare named Steps High and a foal named Sparks Flying. She also has a dog named Tatlo.



Her blind adopted sister’s name is Speaking Rain and they are very close, sharing many secrets with each other. She also has an older sister called Brown Deer and younger twin brothers named Sparrow and Wing Feather.

The stories about Kaya in the book series focus on important values such as compassion, responsibility, friendship, and family. The books are quite different than many of the other American Girl Doll stories – which follow common cultural templates such as school, holidays and birthdays. The Nimiipuu culture in the 1700s did not have these patterns, so the books follow the different rhythms of this culture.



Kaya is brave and adventurous in her stories. For example, In Kaya’s Escape she faces up to a band of enemy raiders who invade her village and attempt to steal the horses. In the book Kaya’s Hero she learns from Swan Circling, a young warrior woman who teaches her how to be a good leader. The books are written by Janet Shaw, who captures the essence of the culture in her stories and also includes an epilogue with a historical lesson at the end of each book.

A Culture Before European Contact

The stories about Kaya take place prior to the permanent settlement of the region by European-Americans. She was marketed as the First American Girl, acknowledging that Native people were here long before any European contact.However, her time frame is post-Western contact, since the tribe has horses and her grandmother has been pockmarked by disease. The fact that the stories take place before the settlement of Europeans was requested by the advisory board consulted when researching the stories. The goal was to acquaint readers with the Nez Perce tribe at the height of their culture when it was flourishing and intact.

However, her time frame is post-Western contact, since the tribe has horses and her grandmother has been pockmarked by disease. The fact that the stories take place before the settlement of Europeans was requested by the advisory board consulted when researching the stories. The goal was to acquaint readers with the Nez Perce tribe at the height of their culture when it was flourishing and intact.

She belongs to the Nez Perce tribe, the Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest region of the USA on the Columbia River Plateau. This tribe descended from the Old Cordilleran Culture, who moved in a southerly direction from the Rocky Mountains into the lands of the west. They lived in an area that covered modern-day Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Washington. The location in which Kaya’s books are set would eventually become part of the US under the Oregon Treaty of 1846.The name “Nez Perce” means “pierced nose” and was given to this tribe and the nearby Chinook people by the early French explorers and trappers – however, only the Chinook had their noses pierced. The name they call themselves is Nimiipuu, which means “The People”.


Accessories Available

 


The name “Nez Perce” means “pierced nose” and was given to this tribe and the nearby Chinook people by the early French explorers and trappers – however, only the Chinook had their noses pierced. The name they call themselves is Nimiipuu, which means “The People”.

The Quest for Authenticity

Kaya isn’t just a generic “Native American” doll, she is a truly authentic depiction of a particular culture. This project took around five years to complete and Pleasant Company researched extensively to find a tribe willing to work on the project.

They reached out to the Nez Perce tribe and made the effort to sincerely create a doll with books and accessories that were completely accurate. This very special doll was created with official permission from the Nez Perce tribe.An eight-member board was formed, including Ann McCormack – the cultural arts coordinator for the Nez Perce tribe. The board also consisted of tribal elders, educators, and historians. They worked closely with Janet Shaw, the author of the Kaya books so that she could accurately depict the Nimiipuu stories and traditions in a sincere and faithful way.

An eight-member board was formed, including Ann McCormack – the cultural arts coordinator for the Nez Perce tribe. The board also consisted of tribal elders, educators, and historians. They worked closely with Janet Shaw, the author of the Kaya books, so that she could accurately depict the Nimiipuu stories and traditions in a sincere and faithful way.

Kaya and Pow Wows

Kaya is keeping up with all the Pow Wow styles too!  She has several outfits available including Cloth, Fancy Shawl, and Jingle.


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