This is the text of Kim Cornelius Nishimoto telling the story of why Oneida corn husk dolls don’t have faces, recorded July 7, 1998 by Michael Kline in Washington, D.C.
So, long ago when the Creator created everything on this earth, He created it with certain duties and responsibilities. The men were responsible for hunting and fishing and providing shelter for the families, and the women were responsible for working in the gardens and cooking the food and taking care of the children.
And anyway, when the parents were out doing their responsibilities, the children were being left alone and getting into trouble. The boys might shoot their arrows into the woods and they’d go to find them and get lost. And, the girls were getting into trouble, or they might get too close to the fire and get burned.
And so anyways, the parents were having a hard time doing their responsibilities and taking care of the children, so they went to the Creator and they asked the Creator for some help—if he would create something to help take care of the children.
And so he created the cornhusk doll, and it was one of the most beautiful creations he ever created. She had a beautiful face and she had the power to walk and talk. And her responsibility was to take care of the children, so the parents could get their work done.
OK, so, the corn husk doll did a really good job of taking care of the children. She taught them many things. She would teach the little boys how to hunt and the little girls how to cook. She’d take care of the babies. She loved them and told them many stories.
One day, a rain storm came to the village. Grandfather Thunder came and he shook his head and rain drops would fall from his hair. Lightning would come from his eyes. Thunder would roar through his mouth. And she gathered all the children into the long house. Inside the long house, she told them stories.
And when the Grandfather decided to move to another village, the corn husk doll took the children outside to play. And when she was outside, she found a pool of water. She looked in there, and she saw her reflection. And she saw that she was very beautiful. And so from that day on instead of watching the children, she would just look at her reflection in the water. She would gather flowers to put in her hair and sew seashells on her dress to make herself look more beautiful.
Well, anyway, she was spending so much time looking at her reflection and she wasn’t watching the children. They were starting to get into trouble and get hurt and different things.
So, the parents were getting upset, and they called to the Creator, and told the Creator that the corn husk doll wasn’t doing her responsibility of watching the children. And so, the Creator called the corn husk doll and he scolded her for not watching the children. And as a punishment, he took away her face and her power to walk and talk.
So from then on, we make our corn husk dolls without faces. And that’s to remind us that we each have a duty and a responsibility that we’re supposed to do.