By Ed Kabotie

Fred Kabotie is among the first artists of the modern Native American Arts & Crafts movement.  Born on Second Mesa, Arizona, in 1900 to the Hopi Bluebird Clan, Kabotie was originally named “Nakavoma” (Day After Day) by his paternal aunts of the Sun Clan.  His traditional upbringing was disrupted in 1906 by the arrest of his father, Lolomayaoma, and other Hopi leaders who refused to send their children to school.  At the age of 15, Nakavoma was sent to the Santa Fe Indian School where his name was “officially” changed to Fred Kabotie.

At the Indian School, Kabotie was encouraged to develop his artistic gifts by the superintendent’s wife, Mrs. Elizabeth DeHuff.  After graduating from the Santa Fe Indian School, Kabotie went on to attend Santa Fe Public High School at the advice of the DeHuffs.  After his second graduation in 1925, Kabotie worked for the Museum of New Mexico.  While in New Mexico, Kabotie illustrated several children’s books for Mrs. DeHuff and prolifically painted commissions for the Heye Foundation.

After a period of employment with the Fred Harvey Company at the Grand Canyon as a tour guide and shop manager (he also painted murals at the Desert View Watchtower in 1932), Kabotie returned to the land of his nativity and married his wife, Alice.  While raising young children, Kabotie worked as an art instructor at the temporarily formed Hopi High School.  In 1945, Kabotie applied as a Guggenheim Fellow.  His award led to the publishing of “Designs from the Ancient Mimbrenos with a Hopi Interpretation.”

In 1948, Kabotie collaborated with his brother–in-law, Paul Saufkie, in teaching silversmithing techniques to Hopi veterans of World War II via the G. I. Bill.  At the completion of the initial class, the group formed the Hopi Silversmiths Cooperative Guild.  In 1963, the guild established a permanent location on Second Mesa.  After the diligent efforts of Kabotie and others, the Hopi Cultural Center on Second Mesa opened in 1972 to complement the guild and encourage tourism and cultural exchange on the Hopi Reservation.

The final decades of Fred Kabotie’s life brought him full circle with the values of his childhood.  Known as a diligent farmer, husband, father and grandfather, his life was a demonstration of the discipline and wisdom of his culture.  From his home in the Hopi village of Shungopavi, Kabotie diligently observed the path of the sun on the horizon just as his forefathers had done for centuries before him.  The life story of Fred Kabotie is a metaphor of his Hopi name, for he truly demonstrates the fullness of life that one experiences when they seek to live “Day After Day.”

Famed architect Mary Colter hired Kabotie in 1932 to paint murals in the second floor “Hopi Room” at her Grand Canyon masterpiece – the Desert View Watchtower.  The Watchtower is now operated by the National Park Service as a cultural center to highlight the work of Native American artists and craftspeople.  “The Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon is the main feature that people see from the Watchtower,” Kabotie wrote. “I painted the Snake legend showing that the first man to float through the canyon was a Hopi – hundreds of years before Major John Wesley Powell’s historic Grand Canyon trip in 1869.”

Around 1958, the Fred Harvey Company hired Kabotie to paint murals in the lounge at Bright Angel Lodge at the Grand Canyon.  Having watched tourists come and go for many years, Kabotie had developed images in his head of typical tourists.  These images, sometimes whimsical, figure into the Bright Angel murals, along with more traditional Native American scenes.

Other great murals by Kabotie are at the Painted Desert Inn in Petrified Forest National Park in eastern Arizona.

Fred Kabotie’s son Michael was a great artist, as well, and now grandson Ed Kabotie carries the family artistic tradition into a third generation.

Ed Kabotie – artist, musician, and storyteller will be a featured performer at the 20th Annual Prescott Indian Art Market at Sharlot Hall Museum Saturday and Sunday, July 8th and 9th.  The market will feature cultural demonstrations of Native American art and craft, and performances of traditional and contemporary music, dance, and storytelling. Hours are 9 am-5 pm Saturday, 9 am-4 pm Sunday. Admission $10; members $8; 17 and under FREE.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlothallmuseum.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles to dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com for information.