The Making of Saila - The Maplelea Girl From the Farthest North!

June 01, 2023 2 min read 7 Comments

Over two years of extensive research went into the creation of Saila, the Maplelea Girl who shares her Inuit heritage. In our quest to create a character who would be an accurate reflection of a 10 year old girl growing up in Iqaluit today, we sought out many sources of information.

We participated in the 10th anniversary celebration for the creation of the territory of Nunavut held in Ottawa, attended an Inuit Awareness seminar, consulted with numerous resource people, and read on-line and printed material extensively. Then, president Kathryn Gallagher Morton and her family travelled to Iqaluit where they spent ten days getting to know the city and its people. They sampled traditional country foods, participated in the Christmas Games, stayed in a local home, watched a stone carver at work, talked to craftspeople at a local craft show, attended a bilingual church service (English and Inuktitut), visited a school and other community facilities and agencies, toured the parliament buildings and chatted with a lot of very friendly people.


Kathryn sought out local Maplelea families and asked them for their ideas and suggestions for this new character. While attending the Christmas Games held at a local hall over several evenings, Kathryn had the opportunity to personally interview a number of girls who eagerly shared with her their stories of what it is like to be a young girl growing up in Nunavut today.

We commissioned our Canadian artist to sculpt the new doll and, based on the information we had gathered, created a wardrobe and accessories for her. The journal was written and illustrated and then translated into French and Inuktitut.

We sought out production facilities in Nunavut and were thrilled to contract with Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts in Pangnirtung to produce a Pang hat for Saila, and also with Kiluk Ltd. in Arviat to produce an amauti for her.

We wanted Saila to be an interesting, authentic and positive role model, not just for girls of Inuit heritage living in Nunavut, but for all girls living in all parts of Canada. We think we have achieved that. We hope you agree.

We would like to thank all the girls, families and community members of Nunavut who so openly and kindly shared their stories and experiences, only a few of which are shown here. The information was extremely helpful in the creation of our Saila Qilavvaq character.

7 Responses


April 11, 2024

Saila is one of the most beautiful dolls I’ve ever seen! If I may ask, what is the name of the Canadian artist who designed her face sculpt? He or she deserves so much credit! :)

Kim Custance

December 01, 2023

I love Saila!! I have given her as a gift.
I would love it if you would create an indigenous doll from BC’s West Coast. From the Shishálh Nation!! Like my niece.


April 20, 2023

ALOHA, I used Saila Saari to represent the Hawaiian Islands in a display for my final project at Brigham Young University-Hawaii on the Island of Oahu. I had tried more local dolls but my Hawaiian friends immediately chose Saila for her beautifully sculpted face; especially the graceful elegance in her smile. I have had 2 Saila dolls which have been passed on to friends who have expressed their admiration for the doll. I am now saving up for another. I have owned more than 10 Maplelea dolls most of which I donated to the daughters of Students at the university after I completed my display of the Pa’u riders of Hawaii. I want to say MAHALO (which means thank you in Hawaiian) for your commitment to doll making.

Jenny H

October 06, 2020

Love Saila!!! I went to the showroom three years ago with considering another character. But once I saw her… it was love at first sight! The hair, the face mold, the skin tone and reading the exhibit about the care put into making her so authentic. I just had to get her! My daughter is still young but we keep taking the doll down of the display for her to play and cuddle. I am really proud of this product and what she represents (and this from the point of view of a new Canadian coming from a totally different background). Please, I want to see more of her stories, her outfit and more articles about the making of the other dolls. These backstories and details is what make these dolls so attractive (at least to me).

Sandi Wiseheart

January 02, 2020

How do you pronounce Saila’s first and last names? It would be wonderful if you could ask one of the young Inuit girls to make an audiofile with the correct pronounciation!

Our Saila just came to live with us today—Christmas Day—and the recipients cried when they saw a doll that looked like them (we are PNWC First Nations). They keep stroking her face and comparing her skin to their own, her face to theirs, with awe and delight! I cannot thank you enough for this beautiful, so-well researched doll.

Kathryn Morton

December 13, 2019

Saila was one of a number of traditional Inuit names that were suggested to us while we were researching the project.

Saila Saari

December 13, 2019

How did Saila get her name?

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