Since ancient times dolls have been made for various reasons: as playthings, as instruments of power to control supernatural forces, as puppets for performance, or for trade or sale as souvenirs ( Lenze 1986, 11.). Dolls were traded as souvenirs in North America even before the arrival of European explorers. Such dolls are miniature reminders of pleasant experiences, exotic places, and interesting people. In a discussion of the popularity of handcrafted dolls as souvenirs throughout the United States, Myles Libhart commented: "Undoubtedly the most widely renowned North American Indian dolls, Seminole palmetto fiber dolls, have been promoted and marketed since the 1930s as Florida tourist trade products under several craft programs directed to aiding the economic development of Indian communities. The Seminole doll is remarkable not only for its conceptual simplicity, but also for its clever integrity at depicting tribal dress" ( Libhart 1989, 40).
The Seminole dolls first noticed in the late nineteenth century were relatively simple playthings made of sticks and rags (fig. 9.1). After the turn of the century, Seminole dolls took on more definable shapes and dress, though not without some reluctance on the part of their makers. As Howard Osceola explained to me, this is the result of a taboo: Seminoles and Miccosukees are hesitant to recreate the exact image of something, fearing it will bring harm to them. Wooden dolls with carved faces were dressed in the clothing style of the day. As Seminoles recognized opportunity in a booming tourist market, they began making dolls as souvenirs before 1920. Palmetto husk dolls with sewn facial features, appropriate hairstyles, and dress that reflected the changing styles in Indian clothing