Faceless Doll (Odaminwaagan)

Lesson submitted by Kris Dirksen (4th grade), Brian Kemp (4th grade), and Carolyn Olson (Art) of South Ridge School.

Many Native cultures have a tradition of the faceless doll. In Ojibwe, we call the faceless doll Odaminwaagan and it is based on a traditional Ojibwe story (and helps facilitate stories) founded in the Ojibwe Seven Teachings. I first learned about faceless dolls from a local elder. At the time I had young twin sons. I had been concerned with how to encourage them to be themselves, not just follow and try to be like someone they admired and forget all of their own good qualities.Often at school I am concerned with my students feeling strong enough in their own good qualities. I wanted the students to meet this elder and hear her story of the Faceless Doll so that they, like me, could learn about themselves through traditional stories.Lesson submitted by Carolyn Olson (art teacher), Brian Kemp (4th grade teacher), and Kris Dirksen (4th grade teacher).See related lessons: The Seven Teachings and Ojibwe Seven Teachings Star Map and Stories.

Materials Needed


Art Materials

Activity Process


Elder guest will join us for one day per week for six weeks. She will meet with students in the art room (1 hour) and general classroom (1 hour) to talk about the doll and tell stories* about growing up. On the first day students will be introduced to our guest who will tell the story of the Faceless Doll. This often leads to other stories. We will begin the sewing in the art class. In the following days/weeks we will move into the general classroom and back to the art studio easily. We will also have elementary students spend time with high school students who previously made the Faceless Doll and who will serve as mentors.*Stories were written down in journals to be illustrated through pop-ups. See http:www.citytechnology.org


The Story of the Faceless Doll: When our guest was very young her grandmother started to teach her how to use the needle. The doll was the chosen "sewing project". Enough scraps of cloth and buckskin leather were gathered together to make the small doll.Thread: The doll was sewn with the thread from the stinging needle (once the nettles fall away in the fall, the stem is harvested for its strong fibrous strands).Stuffing: The stuffing was gathered from the cat tail heads. Hair: Her grandmother cut her own hair to use for the doll's hair. Dolls from this time were often made with human hair.Together they sewed the doll with long black hair and a dress held on by a leather belt but no face. She asked her grandmother why there was no face on her doll. Her grandmother then took her down to the creek and the two of them looked in the water and saw their reflections. Her grandmother said the only place you are to see your reflection is in the water.Demonstration of the sewing stitch (simple stitch that goes from the front to the back looping around the outside - evenly around the outside).



Students completed their dolls on the final day and made/gave gifts to our guest elder (many made cards of thanks and gave a gift of cloth and tea). Dolls were also displayed in the school.


Completed doll. It should be correctly sewn with even stitches (50%), including hair (if no hair - clear reason), even stuffing and back seam sewn (25%), and clothing and embellishments (beads) (25%). Grades reflect consistent studio work.

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American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards