The earliest dolls found in North America represented a spiritual power in healing and
ceremonies. These dolls are often called medicine dolls, and because they are considered sacred, they are not included in this exhibit. Over time, some dolls took on the role of guardians and protectors.
Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel (Mohegan) shared this story about her uncle, Harold Tantaquidgeon and his guardian dolls, which he carved out of wood.
“Harold was always very concerned with protecting the Tantaquidgeon Museum in a spiritual and physical sense. He took his job of protecting the museum with guardian dolls and other forms of protection very seriously. These dolls are not play things, his dolls are not toys for children, his dolls were much more serious and they were dolls with a job to do.”
Other dolls performed different roles. They were given as gifts, sold as souvenirs, and offered as toys. Sparking imaginative play, the dolls allowed young people to act out the skills needed in the adult world.