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Tea dolls in high demand

The Story

On a long trip into the bush, every spare set of hands helps. In the traditional Innu culture, even children did their part as their families followed the caribou. They would carry a supply of tea with them, ingeniously stuffed into handmade dolls. Now the practical has become collectible, and the "tea dolls," handmade by Innu women in Labrador, are in high demand. As this CBC clip explains, a doll can fetch $100, or $200 if it's made from caribou hide.

Medium: Television
Program: Here & Now
Broadcast Date: Dec. 29, 1994
Guests: Madeline Michelin, Greg Pastitshi, Barb Wood
Reporter: David Zelcer
Duration: 3:07

Did You know?

• Another reason why the Innu stuffed dolls with tea was to have a backup supply in case they ran out. Once more tea was obtained from the trading post, the dolls could be easily refilled. Moss, rags or grass could also be used to restuff the doll.

• In Davis Inlet, traditional hats with ear flaps were sometimes also stuffed with tea.

• A well-known producer of Innu tea dolls is Angela Andrew of Sheshatshiu, Labrador. Each doll is different, and she dresses them in traditional Innu wear.

• "I used to see Innu women dressing like this whenever there were special ceremonies. But nobody wears the traditional clothing anymore. I decided to try making dolls as a way to encourage younger people to think about their culture, about who they are as Innu people, and so that they could be proud of themselves." - Angela Andrew, Innu.ca


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