© Laura Walker

Fannie (Polacca) Nampeyo (1904-1987)

Fannie was the youngest, and perhaps the most famous of Nampeyo of Hano’s three daughters. She was born in the Hopi-Tewa Corn Clan home atop First Mesa, on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. Fannie was initially given the name Popongua or Popong-Mana (meaning “Picking Piñons”) by the older women of her father Lesou’s family, and either missionaries or health-care workers later gave her the name “Fannie.”

In the early 1920s she married Vinton Polacca, and shortly thereafter pottery making became an important part of Fannie’s life. She increasingly worked with her mother Nampeyo, whose eyesight was diminishing due to trachoma. Fannie helped her mother with pottery painting and decorating, and also assisted her father with polishing. Early works created by Fannie and her mother were signed simply “Nampeyo” by Fannie, since Nampeyo could not read or write, but later they began signing pieces made together as “Nampeyo Fannie”. Pieces made solely by Fannie were signed “Fannie Nampeyo” and usually included a drawn corn symbol.

Fannie was a prolific potter from 1920–1987 and earned a reputation as an outstanding potter during her lifetime. Her styles included black and red on yellow and black on yellow in the form of jars, cups and saucers. She also made miniatures and bird effigy bowls. Among her favorite designs were clouds, rain, feathers, stars and migrations motifs. In addition to making pottery she also made quilts.

Fannie’s pottery won a first place blue ribbon in the “Hopi Show” at the Museum of Northern Arizona in July 1961, and her works have been included in collects by the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and The Cleveland Museum of Art.

Fannie became matriarch of the Hopi-Tewa Corn Clan, as her mother Nampeyo had been before her. “Nampeyo” is actually the ceremonial title used by the matriarch of the Hopi-Tewa Corn Clan. Fannie and her husband Vinton were among the first families at First Mesa to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All seven of Fannies’s children (Thomas Polacca, Elva Nampeyo, Tonita, Iris Youvella, Leah, Harold and Elsworth) excelled at pottery making, which they learned from their mother, and several have become known in their own right among collectors of Native American pottery. She died in a car accident in the year 1987.

Family: Daugher of Nampeyo and Lesou; wife of Vinton Polacca (Tobacco Clan from Hano); Mother of Thomas, Elva, Tonita, Iris, Leah, Harold and Elsworth; sister of Annie Healing Nampeyo and Nellie Douma Nampeyo

For Additional Information
-American Indian Art Series: Hopi-Tewa Pottery by Gregory Schaaf (p.101,104)


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