Katsina dolls, or kachina dolls as many people know them, are representations of the Katsina spirits. The carved figures are given as ceremonial gifts to young girls by the Katsinam. Each gift represents a prayer wish for good health, growth and fertility. The figures are carved from cottonwood roots with knife and rasp. Carvers fashion simpler dolls from several pieces fit together with tiny wooden pegs. Each doll is painted and decorated to accurately depict important features of a specific Katsina.
Since the mid-20th century, these carvings have developed as an impressive art form, with known carvers working in several general styles. Some carvings exhibit traditional, stylized forms, while others reflect a modern trend toward more active, lifelike figures. Innovative sculptural forms and multiple-figure tableaus are the most recent trends. Few American Indian arts appeal so powerfully to both the eye and the imagination as these unique creations by Hopi carvers.