Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

November 18, 2000 - Issue 23


The Legend of the No Face Doll

Iroquois Legend

The three sisters of the Iroquois, Corn, Beans and Squash are the three spirits that sustain life. In the beginning, the Corn spirit was so happy at being a sustainer of life that she asked the Creator for more ways to help her people. So the Creator began forming a doll from her husks, creating for it a beautiful face, and giving it to the children of the Iroquois. But the doll, as it passed from village to vllage and child to child, continually proclaimed her beauty, until she became so vain that the Creator disapproved of her and asked her to refrain from such narcissistic behavior. If she continued, the Creator warned, he would have to punish her.

The doll agreed, and attempted to be more humble. But one day, walking by a creek, she glanced into the water and stopped to admire the beauy of her reflection. The Creator, however was unseeing; he sent a giant screech owl down from the sky to snatch her reflection from the water. When she then glaned into the water again to admire her beauty, her reflection was gone. She could no longer see her face or glory in her superior beauty.

Ever since, when an Iroquois mother gives a doll to her child, she usually a doll with no face, and tells the legend of the Corn-Husk doll. The Iroquois want their children to value the unique gifts that the Creator has given to each of them, but not to view themselves as superior to another, or to overemphasize physical appearance at the expense of spiritual and community values.

Oneida Nation Culture


Hear Carly tell the story of the no face doll

Make a No Face Doll

  • Corn husks, fresh or dried, about 6-8 pieces.
  • String
  • Cotton balls, about 4
  • Scraps of cloth, yarn, beads, and pipe cleaners (optional)

Note: If you are using dried husks, soak them in water to soften them. Fresh husks need no special preparation.


Step 1: Take a strip of husk and place a few cotton balls in the middle, twisting and tying it with string to make a head. Make some arms by folding another husk and tying it near each end to make hands. Slip the arms between the husks that extend under the head. Tie the waist with string.
Step 2: Arrange enough husks around the figure's waist so that they overlap slightly. Tie them in place with string.
Step 3: Fold the husks down carefully. For a woman wearing a long skirt, cut the husks straight across at the hem. to make a man, divide the skirt in two and tie each half at the ankles. Let the figure dry completely.
Step 4: You can leave you figure as is, or give it hair, or even some fancier clothes. Glue some fuzzy yarn on for hair. Add some tiny beads for buttons, and bits of fabric for aprons or vests. A pipe cleaner staff or cane will help the man stand upright.




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