Empowering Indigenous Children through Dolls, “Indigedoll”

Silver Shandiin has a message for indigenous parents: “Our kids and our culture are what will bring this world back together.” It’s a message that has inspired her art and her life. Her dolls and the messages they convey are a tangible representation of her hope that indigenous parents will understand that raising their children is a form of activism.

Born in Shiprock, New Mexico, Silver grew up in Monument Valley, a place she still feels a deep connection to. As a child she loved dolls, but never felt she could identify with the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Barbies that were popular then. When her own daughter was born in 2010, she opted to use her love of sewing to make her a doll. It was a project that would take her several years to complete, but would be the inspiration for getting her message out.

Silver Shandiin and her partner Desiree Deschenie. Together they are Indigedoll. Shandiin calls Deschenie her social media coordinator and “backbone” of their business.

Raising a child in a world full of tensions and divisions is a difficult task. After the recent presidential election, Silver’s daughter was fearful of what the world might hold. To ease her daughter’s worries, Silver looked for a way to inspire her to gain the confidence to speak up for herself. She remembered the doll she’d made. Tapping into her own admiration for Native American activist Kim Smith and the NoDAPL protestors at Standing Rock, Silver decided to tweak the pattern she’d use to create a doll her daughter could identify with.

Left is the Water Protector doll; Right is The Gathering Doll

Thus was born her Water Protector doll, the first in her collection of inspirational dolls that indigenous children could identify with. The dolls come with traditional clothing and Silver looks for fabric that creates the right skin tone. She wants Native American children to see themselves in her dolls. In addition to the Water Protector, there is Obsidian Doll, White Shell Doll and Tina the Educator. Others in the works are a jingle dancer doll and a series of dolls based on the four sacred mountains of the Navajo.

Left is White Shell Mountain Doll; right is Corn Pollen Doll

Silver continues to expand her collection with the hope that the dolls will bring awareness to political causes and concerns relevant to indigenous people. Her love for teaching children continues as well. Over the years she has worked as a sewing instructor for a company called Create. Watching children gain a newfound confidence from learning the skills to create something themselves means a lot to her. It is part of her message for she believes that “parents should pour all of their heart and all of their love into their children first, raising them to be powerful, confident and capable.” This has been her goal for her own daughter, who helps her with the dolls. Silver refers to her as her “creative director”.

As she embraces the passion she feels for children, Silver continues to impact today’s often tense world through her art. Many of her customers are adults who grew up without a doll they could identify with. Silver’s dolls remind them of their own voice, and their own power to change the world. It’s her hope they will pass that confidence on to their own children. If they will, then her message is finding roots in the children she is so passionate about.

Learn more about Silver and Indigedoll;

Website ~ http://silvershandiin.bigcartel.com/

Facebook ~ https://www.facebook.com/indigedoll/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf

Instagram ~ https://www.instagram.com/indigedoll/

Twitter ~ https://twitter.com/hashtag/indigedoll?src=hash