In many of the Native websites and publications that I have now at least browsed, the uses for corn husk dolls were first ceremonial. I am not sure that toys as we know them today were on the minds of the First Nations people. Children's games and toys usually served the purpose of teaching a skill or value, as in the Firekeeper's Game which teaches the skills of stealth and quiet movement, or that of rolling a hoop and throwing an arrow or spear through it. Though, I believe Lacrosse was invented by the Iroquois. However, just as tobacco was a ceremonial offering for the Indians, and European people used it very differently, I might imagine that other Native objects and customs were also altered to fit into the settlers' customs. ( Possibly dolls too)
Each website seems to have a variation on making the dolls. Some have wooden heads (ceremonial) some are all husk with horse tail or corn silk used as hair, some are dolls made using the cob itself as the body covered with fabrics. When we look at the clothing in which the artifact dolls are dressed, we have only to remember that First Contact with Europeans was more than 200 years before "our" period. One of the first things that the early explorers and settlers did was to open up trade with the Indians. A Trade Shirt of wool, linen or cotton was much desired by the Native Americans. It was light weight in the warm weather, dried quickly, could be used for many things after it was no longer wearable as a shirt. So early on the custom of wearing European clothing along with traditional Native clothing became common. Their use of beads, ribbons, and velvets or other European fabrics reflects trade outside the Native communities, as do iron toos vs. stone tools. So I don't find it inauthentic to see Native artifacts that use materials from European cultures. As time passed and the Indians' were pressed further and further away from their own ways of living, many turned to making crafts and selling them to whites as a way to survive; a practice which continues today. At least in Vermont this was happening by mid 19th century as documented by information on the Obamsawin family in Ferrisburgh and Charlotte, Vermont by their granddaughter, Jeannie Brink.
The lives of children in both the Native American world and the settlers' culture were very different from what we know of for children in the 19th century. By the mid-19th century children were becoming the focus of the family. They were valued and educated. It was mother's job to raise the children. Books on etiquette for children, health tip for how to raise children, moral character instruction and more were available for the modern woman. When Clement Clark Moore wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas" in 1822 for his children, he was reluctant for others to know that he had written it lest he be looked on as a father who catered to his children. So, a lot changed by the time of the Civil War. Certainly a lot changed for the Native American population. Very few of the nearly 36,000 Indian soldiers who fought for the Union are ever heard about. Indians were busy trying to be like the white man in order to survive the demands of the white man.
Did 1860s Kentucky Indian kids play with 1860s white kids? Would the poor Irish and Scottish moonshiners who settled in Appalachia have contact with any poor Indians? The discussion poses ever more questions than we have answered!
This was fun to write. Every now and then I get to share some stuff I know. If anyone really wants documentation of some of this stuff, it is out there. Check the Journals of Samuel de Champlain which have been translated and are online (pretty gorey in some spots), Fred Wiseman's work, Marge and Joseph Burchac's work,http://www.vermontfolklifecenter.org/childrens-books/malians-song/index.shtml
books by Catherine Beecher (she started a Female Seminary in Massachusetts and was an early abolitionist sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe), The Original Vermonters, and dozens of other new works on Native Americans from all over the country.
Still exploring the Kentucky doll connections...