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Indigenous Voices of the Colorado Plateau

Hopi Leaders

Polingaysi Qoyawayma Louis Tewanima Fred Kabotie Nampeyo

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Educator and Artist

Polingaysi Qoyawayma (Elizabeth Q. White) (1892-1990) was born in Old Oraibi, Third Mesa, in 1892. Educated at Mennonite boarding schools away from the Hopi reservation, she adopted the Christian religion. When she returned home, she found her attempts to convert her people were met with hostility. Eventually she decided to become a teacher. Qoyawayma remembered how she was taught at boarding schools to renounce her own Hopi culture and language and instead developed a different method of instruction for Hopi schoolchildren that she taught. Her techniques taught concepts such as math and science by using Hopi legends and language, thereby allowing children to retain their native cultural and language ties as well as instill a sense of pride in their identity. Qoyawayma was criticized at first for her revolutionary teaching methods, but later won awards for her ideas.

Quoyawayma was also a noted author. She wrote the novel Sun Girl as well as her autobiography, No Turning Back, which chronicled her struggles in attempting to negotiate both her native Hopi world and the world of the Anglo.

Qoyawayma became a renowned potter in her later years. She used a distinctive type of clay and also incorporated a raised pattern design, usually corn or Kokopelli symbols, which were unique to her work.

Qoyawayma understood that her earlier decision to renounce her culture was wrong, and became known for her efforts to honor and help the Hopi people. She remained on the Hopi reservation where she continued to help her people better themselves through education until her death on December 6, 1990.


Hopi Runner

Louis Tewanima (1879?-1969) was a member of the 1908 and 1912 United States Olympic track teams. In the 1908 games, he placed 9th in the marathon. In 1912, he won a silver medal and established a record that stood for 52 years until it was broken by another Native American team member. Tewanima was educated at the Carlisle Boarding School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Stories tell of Tewanima running 120 miles from his home on the Hopi Mesas to the town of Winslow, Arizona in one day, just to watch the trains pass. At school in Carlisle, he once missed the train to a track meet and ran eighteen miles to the meet, where he placed second in the two mile event.



Fred Kabotie (1900?-1986) was a prominent painter, illustrator, and writer of Hopi life. His Hopi name was Nakayoma, meaning Day After Day.

Sent to Santa Fe Indian School in 1913, Kabotie became an accomplished artist and set a new style of modeling in color with some shadows rather than just flat colors. In 1920, he became a book illustrator and was commissioned to paint Hopi life and customs. In the 1930s, he was commissioned by the Peabody Museum to reproduce Awatovi prehistoric murals in their original size. He also painted a mural inside the Watchtower on the east rim of the Grand Canyon.

From 1937, he taught in Hopi high school, received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1945, and in 1960 was a goodwill envoy to India for the United States government.



Nampeyo (1856?-1942) created a classic pottery of fine symmetry from designs she first saw in ancient Sikyatki pottery. Her work has stylized patterns that includes animals and feather designs. When she was thirty-nine, her husband, Lesou, began working for Dr. Fewkes, an archaeologist who was excavating a nearby village, Sikyatki, and she sketched the intricate designs of shards which she worked into her own pottery. Subsequently she found herself an object of interest far beyond her Hopi world because of her skills as a potter, painter, and her willingness to interact with non-Indian people. She taught her daughters and granddaughters, and from that flowed a line of successful and talented potters. Later in her life she lost her eyesight, and worked by touch with her daughter, Fannie, doing the finishing work.


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