Photography
© Ely Abrums and Laura Walker

Nampeyo (Nampeyo of Hano)

Nampeyo (ca. 1856 –1942) was a Hopi – Tewa potter who lived on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona.[1][2] Her Tewa name was also spelled Num-pa-yu, meaning “snake that does not bite”.

She used ancient techniques for making and firing pottery and used designs from “Old Hopi” pottery and sherds found at Sikyátki ruins on First Mesa , which dated to the 15th century. Her work is in collections in the United States and Europe, including many museums like the National Museum of American Art, Museum of Northern Arizona and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University.

Nampeyo of Hano, is the matriarch of Hopi Pueblo, and was the first pueblo woman to gain recognition for her pottery. She lived and worked at a time when putting one’s name on the vessel was not done, so little, if any, of her pottery is signed. She spent a large part of her productive life supplying pottery to the Fred Harvey Company for re-sale, so documentation of her work is well established. Nampeyo had five children Fannie Polacca Nampeyo, Wesley Lesso, Nellie Nampeyo Douma, William Lesso, and Annie Healing Nampeyo.

Nampeyo of Hano Southwest Indian Pottery Historic Hopi Pueblo signataure

Note: Nampeyo’s birth date has been stated to be either 1857 or 1858 by noted photographer W. H. Jackson who photographed her in 1875 at the time he said she was 17 or 18 years of age. (Plateau, A Quarterly. October 1951, Volume 24, Number 2, page 92).

The photograph above shows Nampeyo of Hano on the right with her daughter Fannie on the left – ca. 1930, courtesy of Rick Dillingham Fourteen Families In Pueblo Pottery.


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