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Handmade Dolls

Curated Submission
Aklavik, Northwest Territories
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
Materials & techniques
Fabric, yarn, fur; Handmade, hand-sewn
Marteenu and Anna
Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre 2002.012.001 & .002
These dolls were made entirely by two young students at the All Saints Residential School in Aklavik. The girls, Anna and Marteenu, gave these handmade dolls to their teacher, Mary Harrington, when she was ill and waiting for an airplane to fly her out of the community. When presented to the teacher, the dolls were suited in full sets of clothing including parkas, dresses, stockings, and mukluks. Under the garments that matched the everyday attire of Aklavik women, the doll forms were stuffed with fabric scraps. After Harrington returned to the school, the girls periodically added gifts of clothing for “Eemuh” and “Eleez,” such as new parka covers made with pretty fabrics.
In Inuit and Dene households, girls learned to sew clothing by watching the women of their family and by practising on scraps of hide, fur, and fabric. At the residential school sewing was taught in classes and girls were encouraged to sew in their spare time. Church agencies in southern Canada sent clothing, fabrics, and household materials to northern missions, and the girls sewed small cloth bags from these supplies to hold their personal treasures, like scraps of fabric, furs, threads, beads, and wool.
Mary Harrington Bryant (1919–2011) taught at the Aklavik residential school from 1944 to 1948. Her interest in botany led her to a degree in biology from the University of British Columbia where she met her husband, biologist Joe Bryant. They returned to Aklavik in 1957; he worked for the Canadian Wildlife Service, and she raised their young family. They next moved to Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, and eventually to Ottawa, Ontario. She describes her experiences in her 2007 memoir 4 Years – And Then Some. Harrington Bryant was also an artist and donated a group of paintings that depict Aklavik and scenes in the Mackenzie Delta to the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.
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