Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Innu Tea Doll

In researching my article on "faceless" dolls I came across a type of doll that I had never heard of before who has a fascinating history. The dolls are called "Innu Tea Dolls" and were made by the Innu people from Nitassinan (Quebec and Labrador) Canada. The Innu have been making dolls for a very long time.

According to history the Innu people were always on the move. As such, space to carry items was always at a premium. When the Innu people traveled to their hunting grounds everyone had to carry their fair share, including the children. Innu women would sew the dolls and stuff them with tea. The tea dolls were intended to be carried by the children and would hold two or three pounds of loose tea. When the main supply of tea ran out, the dolls were opened and the tea inside was shared. The dolls would then be stuffed with caribou moss to retain their shape and then given to the children as toys.

The illustration at the top of this article is of an Innu Tea Doll that was given to the Smithsonian Institute by Lucien M. Turner in the early 1880's. According to the website he obtained some of the Innu Tea Dolls from the Innu people who came out of the Hudson Bay Company post to trade. The Innu of Labrador are the last known hunter/nomadic people of North America.

I hope to visit the Smithsonian one of these days. That is, when I'm not crafting or sewing. When I do I'll be sure to look for the Innu Tea Doll.


  1. Hmmm...Very Interesting. :)

  2. Violet, glad you liked it.


  3. I'm the great-grand-daughter of Lucien M. Turner. I think that he would be pleased to know that there are folks still interested in the Innu's Artifacts. I am in the process of creating a website of Lucien M. Turner at: I enjoyed your site.