The Innu people from Nitassinan (Quebec and Labrador) have been making dolls for many years, with examples collected in the 1880s from Kujiuaq (Fort Chimo) in storage at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. Prior to the 1950s, the Innu were migratory and everyone in the family had to carry their share of the load while traveling on the land. The children carried their dolls which held a reserve of tea. The tea dolls are sewn of plain broadcloth, the faces and hands are often smoked-tanned caribou skin with embroidered features. The body is filled with approximately two pounds of loose tea. The dolls had black yarn hair under traditional hats of coloured stroud with beaded trim and wore aprons and dresses of brightly coloured broadcloth with hand sewn moccasins. When needed the tea was removed, the dolls were re-stuffed with grass, leaves or lichen.
Angela Andrew was born at Tshiashkushit on the Churchill River, Labrador. She has been making Innu tea dolls for many years and is well known to people in the craft industry for the excellent quality of her dolls. Angela normally resides in Sheshatshiu, Labrador, but is currently studying education at Memorial University in St. John’s. She still finds time to make dolls despite her busy study schedule.
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