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“First Mesa Pottery”

by Dewey Healing

Nampeyo, Hopi Potter“Nampeyo, Hopi Potter,” Unidentified (Photographer)

Some Hopis say they taught us Tewas in Tewa Village how to make pottery. That’s all wrong, of course. Tewas were making pottery back in Tsewageh before they came here. At one time the people on First Mesa had just about stopped making pottery altogether. One of the few people still making pottery then was my great-grandmother, White Corn. She was making pots when most of the Walpis weren’t doing it anymore. Her daughter—that’s my grandmother on my mother’s side—was Nampeyo. She and her husband—my grandfather—went to Sikyatki and found some old pottery there. She got the designs of the old pottery and began to make pots in that style. She also went to other ruins. There’s a ruins coming out of Keam’s Canyon, up on that big point to the right. Down below there’s a kind of ridge, and from there you can look down and see other ruins. That’s where some of Nampeyo’s pottery designs came from. All those old designs Nampeyo was using were different from what the First Mesa people had been putting on their pots. Some of Nampeyo’s designs also came from Awatovi. Then other First Mesa women began doing the same thing, and pottery revived. Nampeyo improved on her mother’s work, and she became very well known.