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“Nampeyo”

Southwest Crossroads Spotlight

During the 1870s and 1880s, a young Hopi woman named Nampeyo searched for potsherds in the ancient village of Sikyatki on First Mesa. Nampeyo was the daughter of Qotca Ka-o (White Corn), who was a member of the Tewa Corn Clan. Her Hopi father was a member of the Snake Clan. Nampeyo learned pottery making from her Hopi grandmother on First Mesa. Her early pots were typical of First Mesa pottery of the time.

Nampeyo, Hopi Potter from Hano Pueblo“Nampeyo, Hopi Potter from Hano Pueblo,” H. F. Robinson (Photographer)

Nampeyo lived with her family along the road that led up to First Mesa. Although the Hopis lived far away from other settlements for decades, by Nampeyo's time many people, including anthropologists, were visiting Hopi. Nampeyo began to sell her pottery to interested visitors. Her brother, Tom Pavatea, worked for Thomas Keams at the Keam’s Canyon Trading Post for fifteen years. Then he set up his own trading post at Polacca, where he sold Nampeyo’s pottery.

The pottery sherds Nampeyo found at the old settlements inspired her. Nampeyo's designs resembled the pottery from the old villages of Sikyatki (occupied about 1375-1625), Awat’ovi (occupied about 1200-1700) and the Four Mile Area (occupied about 1275-1400). They represent a Hopi legacy of artistic complexity and refinement.

Nampeyo revived the older styles and taught them to her daughters, grandchildren, and others from First Mesa. Today many potters from First Mesa are descendants of Nampeyo and her artistic vision.