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Indigenous Nations Heritage Month


Arizona Memory Project Online Collections

Myra and Joshua

Hopi Artists and the Museum of Northern Arizona

The Photographs

A concerted effort was made by Museum of Northern Arizona photographers in 1956 to begin professionally photographing individual Hopi artists - often portrait style - and sometimes with examples of their craft. Many artists, particularly those that were regular prize winners, were photographed during the Museum's regular collecting trips to the Hopi Reservation. This practice of photographing artists professionally continued until the 1970s when Museum resources were diverted elsewhere and this practice was ultimately discontinued. What remains is a thorough and comprehensive look at the development of Hopi art from a specific period, particularly as an individual artist's style evolved over this same time. Moreover, these photographs have allowed Hopi community members to see images of family and friends who were perhaps otherwise not photographed during this period.

About this Project

In December 2010, the Museum Archivist was approached by eighth-grade Hopi student Mowana Koyiyumptewa to help her with a critical eighth grade project. Mowana was to choose a topic and work on a project that she felt would expand her horizons, enable her to understand more of the world in which she lives, and would allow her to provide something that would ultimately benefit her community. The Archivist determined that having a selection (1956-1965) of the Museum's Hopi artist photographs digitized and made available online would satisfy all of these criteria, as well as provide a great test bed for the Museum to explore future related endeavors. Over a period of four months, Mowana came in to select, digitize, and enter any available descriptive information for each of the photographs. Mowana further enhanced some descriptions by providing complementary corrections to incorrect spelling and by interjecting personal memories when she came across images of family members that she had never before seen.

Image: Myra and Joshua

The Pima Woman

Images from the Edward Curtis Collection at the Arizona Capitol Museum

In 1899, Edward Curtis joined The Harriman Expedition to Alaska as the official photographer. On the expedition Curtis met George Bird Grinnell, an expert on the Plains Indians. Grinnell shared Curtis's ideas concerning the conservation of American Indian traditions. Curtis accompanied Grinnell on a similar trip to Montana in 1900; this time to document the cultures of the Blackfoot, Algonquin, and Blood tribes. While viewing the Sun Dance of the Blackfoot Indians, Grinnell told Curtis, "Take a good look. We're not going to see this kind of thing much longer. It already belongs to the past." Curtis was so moved by his experiences with the American Indians of Alaska and Montana that he vowed to create a multi-volume encyclopedic reference on all of the American Indian Tribes which he would eventually title, "The North American Indian, A Series of Volumes Picturing and Describing the Indians of the United States and Alaska."

Curtis began his work with the Apache, Jicarilla, and Navajo tribes. The Navajo tribe he worked with was located in Canyon de Chelly in Arizona. Curtis wanted a more immersive experience than the typical tourist. So he hired an interpreter and a Navajo informant to communicate through and form relationships with the Navajo people. Instead of simply viewing the ceremonies, Curtis now had insight into the meaning of each ceremony. For the second volume of the work, Curtis documented the cultures of the Pima, Papago, Qahatika, Mohave, Yuma, Maricopa, Walapai, Havasupai, and Apache-Mohave or Yavapai tribes. Curtis returned to Arizona to work with the Hopi tribes of the Arizona for the twelfth volume.

Altogether, the twenty volumes produced by Edward Curtis represent a grand attempt to represent the various cultures of the American Indians. The twenty volume set, with the twenty accompanying portfolios, containing over 1,500 photograph plates, was not obtainable at an affordable price for most people. The volumes were sold mostly to institutions and private collectors.

The description element of many of these objects comes directly from Curtis. The archaic spellings and awkward grammar are authentically Curtis's. In cases where Curtis did not supply captions to a plate, corresponding sections of his writing from "The North American Indian" were used.

Image: The Pima Woman

Pre 1897 photo of Montezuma's Castle

Montezuma's Castle Historic Photo Archive

This collection offers images, some over 100 years old, of Native American life in and around Winslow, a border town to Hopi and Navajo tribal lands. Members of both nations have migrated between their lands and Winslow for trade, employment, education, public services, and entertainment. Winslow is also a second home to many Laguna families, whose men were employed by the Santa Fe Railway in exchange for the right to cross their Pueblo lands in New Mexico. Winslow's Laguna residents lived in a group of converted boxcars on Santa Fe property known as the Laguna Colony.

Ancestral Puebloans, ancestors of the Hopi, inhabited the Homol'ovi villages just northeast of present-day Winslow starting in AD 200. Inhabitants mastered techniques for growing corn in the high desert, and they likely grew and traded cotton for pottery with the Pueblo villages on the mesas to the north. Homol'ovi's inhabitants likely migrated to those mesas at the end of the 14th century, and the land they left behind now constitutes Homolovi State Park. In 1882, the federal government established the Hopi Reservation on the northern mesas, which are a one-hour drive from Winslow.

The Athabaskans, hunter-gatherer ancestors of the Navajo, may have arrived in the Southwest as early as the 1400s from northern Canada. By the 1700s, Navajos, or Diné ("the people"), were building hogans, growing crops, tending sheep, and engaging in mutual trade with Pueblo people and others living on the Colorado Plateau. Established in 1868, the Navajo Reservation is the largest tribal entity in the United States in both population and area, straddling parts of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico and bordering Winslow to the north.

The Montezuma Castle Historic Photo Archive collection represents the history of Montezuma Castle National Monument, from its time before National Park Service control in the late nineteenth century, through the 1960's. These images chronicle not only early interest and exploration of the site, but also document efforts by the National Park Service to preserve and stabilize these prehistoric structures for the benefit of future generations. Having just celebrated its 100th anniversary as a National Monument in December of 2006, the National Park Service is pleased to present these images to the public. Montezuma Castle cliff dwelling was recently named one of the top seven man-made wonders in Arizona and stands as one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America.

Image: Pre 1897 photo of Montezuma's Castle

Cave Quadrupeds

Cochise County Rock Art

This collection presents a brief introduction to the rock art of Cochise County, Arizona. A wide diversity of prehistoric and historic rock art is found in the county including petroglyphs and pictographs. Petroglyphs are carved rock designs and pictographs are painted rock designs. Rock art is much more than meaningless sketches. It is a visual record from the past of various concepts, such as ceremony, religion, life style and art. Four different cultures are represented in the collection images: Apache, Hohokam, Mimbres and Mogollon. Rock art is being threatened by natural deterioration, vandalism and development. This collection is Cochise College Library's effort toward its preservation.

Image: Cave Quadrupeds