Polychrome jar with 4-panel bird element and geometric design New Arrival this week
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Rachel Sahmie, Hopi, Polychrome jar with 4-panel bird element and geometric design New Arrival this week
Artist: Rachel Sahmie
Pueblo: Hopi
Dimensions: 3 1/4 in H by 6 1/2 in Dia
Item Number: dghoe8235
Price: $ 650
Description: Polychrome jar with 4-panel bird element and geometric design New Arrival this week
Condition: Excellent
Signature: RS

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Rachel Sahmie

Rachel Sahmie
Polychrome cylinder with eagle tail and geometric design

Rachel Sahmie Nampeyo was born to Priscilla Namingha Nampeyo and Donnelly Sahmie in 1956. She grew up in the village of Polacca at the foot of Hopi First Mesa, surrounded by some of the finest traditional potters in the Hopi mesas. Growing up watching her mother make pottery, Rachel learned a lot. She has been an active potter since about 1970. She has seven siblings, all of whom are potters or Katsina doll carvers. Her brothers and sisters are Nyla Sahmie, Jean Sahme, Bonnie Chapella, Randall Sahmie, Andrew Sahmie, Foster Sahmie and Finkle Sahmie. Rachel has one daughter, Carla Moreno, and two grandchildren, Sean Michael and Madison.

Rachel specializes in the Sikyátki Revival shapes and designs brought back into popularity by her great-grandmother, Nampeyo of Hano. There was a time in her early twenties when Rachel experimented with more contemporary shapes and designs for her pottery but it "didn't have the same feel," and she returned to using the traditional designs of her great-grandmother. She has also created pieces decorated with Anasazi corrugations.

Rachel is an accomplished potter with works on display in places like The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe and the Heard Museum in Phoenix. She has often participated in shows at the Heard Museum, the Tuhisma Hopi Arts and Crafts Market in Kykotsmovi, AZ, and the SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market, earning her a number of 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place ribbons. Her favorite shapes to make are tiles and Sikyátki-style pots. Her favorite designs always have bird elements in them.

Rachel says she often gets inspired simply by hiking through the ruins of Sikyátki and studying the pot shards she finds strewn on the ground there. She would like the world to know she loves making pottery so much that she'd keep on making it long after folks stopped buying it. However, if Rachel is not busy making pottery on any particular day, she's probably gone fishing somewhere.

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Looking across Tewa Village to First Mesa
Tewa Village and First Mesa

The Hopi people live in villages on or around three primary mesas in northeast Arizona. Some of these communities have been continuously occupied since the 12th century. Because they lived in isolation longer than any other pueblo group, the Hopis retain much of their traditional religion, lifestyle and language. That said, the Hopi mesas have also long been sanctuaries for other tribes during times of great drought or great hardship (such as those brought on by the Spanish in the early years of their colonization of Nuevo Mexico). As a result, the landscape around First Mesa is littered with the remains of villages once founded by people speaking Keresan, Towa, Tewa and other languages.

The Hopi pottery tradition is quite varied with roots traced as far away as vitrified ceramics found in the environs of Valdivia, Ecuador, and produced between 1200 and 1500 BC. Archaeologists excavating in the ruins around First Mesa found shards of pottery styles and painted designs also found in the Rio Salado region and among the ancient Sinagua settlements in the Wupatki, Tuzigoot, Walnut Canyon and Homolovi areas (all abandoned between about 950 and 1200 AD).

The area around Jeddito was occupied by Towa-speaking people from the Four Corners region beginning around 1275. The Jeddito area is where Jeddito yellow is found, the clay that made the pottery shards of Sikyátki so spectacular. Beginning in the 1400's, Keres-speaking people arriving from the east began to build what became Awatovi, on Antelope Mesa between Jeddito and First Mesa. Sikyátki itself was also built by people from the east beginning in the early 1300's. At first Sikyátki was inhabited solely by the Kokop (Firewood) clan, then the Coyote clan came and grew to become the largest single clan in the village. Why the village was destroyed is shadowed in myth but Jesse Walter Fewkes (the first archaeologist to excavate in the Sikyátki area) felt the village was destroyed before the first Spanish visitor arrived in 1540. Oral history has it that Sikyátki and its people were wiped out but the clans that lived in the village have somehow continued to exist.

The Hopi Cultural Center from the parking lot
The Hopi Cultural Center

The ruins at Awatovi (on Antelope Mesa, east of Walpi and south of Keams Canyon) have yielded pottery shards in styles and with designs that were also prominent in the prehistoric village now known as Pottery Mound (in central New Mexico). Among the pot shards found at Pottery Mound are plain and decorated Hopi products, white clay products from the Acoma-Zuni area and red clay products from north-central New Mexico. Pottery Mound was abandoned a few decades before the Spanish arrived in New Mexico in 1540. It has been reported that the residents of Awatovi were Keres-speaking people from the Laguna-Acoma area (where Pottery Mound is) and, as such, were not as resistant as the Hopi themselves were to the Christianizing practices of the Spanish Franciscan monks when they came into the Hopi lands around 1609. As Awatovi was the only pueblo in the Hopi region to construct a Christian mission, most archaeologists attribute that to the reason why residents of Walpi and Old Oraibi destroyed the village and killed nearly all its residents in the fall of 1700. However, at the time of that destruction, Awatovi was the largest and most populous pueblo in the Hopi mesas. That was also shortly after Hopi recruiters went to the Rio Grande Pueblos for Tewa warriors to relocate near the Hopis. It was also around 1690 that the people of Walpi were relocating from their old pueblo at the foot of First Mesa to their new location atop the southernmost finger of First Mesa, a move made for defensive reasons.

Tewa warriors and their families began arriving in the area in 1696 and were steered to take up residence at the foot of First Mesa along the only route to the mesa top (in that location, the Tewas would be the first people to encounter incoming Spanish military - the Hopis atop First Mesa felt they would make a good first line of defense should the Spanish attempt to reconquer them). The Tewas were also good at repulsing Ute, Paiute and Navajo raiders. After they won a famous battle against the Utes they built Tewa Village (also known as Hano) at the foot of First Mesa. Some of the Tewa women were potters and in the ages-old way, they slowly shared what they knew with Hopi potters, and vice versa. That cross-pollination went on for years, and not just with pottery. Cross-cultural marriages happened, too, and today the people are known as Hopi, Hopi-Tewa and Tewa, depending on their ancestry. And while Tewa Village is completely surrounded by the Hopi Reservation, many of the residents are fluent in Tewa, Hopi and English. Some are fluent in Spanish and Navajo, too.

During those same troubled times Towa-speaking people from Jemez Pueblo migrated to Hopi and Navajo territory (in the Jeddito Wash area) to escape the violence of the Spanish reconquest. They established familial ties that are still in place today (which may explain why Jeddito Wash is a Navajo Reservation area surrounded by the Hopi Reservation). The village of Sichomovi on First Mesa was founded in the late 1700's by members of the Wild Mustard Clan, Roadrunner Clan and others who'd come to the area from east of Santa Fe (Pecos Pueblo and the pueblos of the Galisteo Basin). Around 1800 a long period of severe drought caused many Hopis to migrate to Zuni territory and once the drought had broken, most returned to their ancestral lands. While at Zuni many Hopi potters picked up the Zuni method of white-slipping their pottery and continued to produce white ware after returning to Hopi. However, their quality wasn't nearly as good as that of Hopi pottery produced pre-1700.

The quality, styles and designs of Sikyátki had lived on in Awatovi pottery, although the potters of Awatovi were also enamored of using a white slip on top of the Jeddito clay base. The potters of Awatovi also introduced some new designs (the "Awatovi star" being one) but after the village was destroyed, very little of their knowledge and practice passed on. Hopi ceramics entered a virtual Dark Age for almost 200 years.

By the mid-1800's the Hopi pottery tradition had been almost completely abandoned, its utilitarian purposes being taken over by cheap enamelware brought in by Anglo traders. Hopi pottery production sputtered along until the late 1800's when one woman, Nampeyo of Hano, almost single-handedly revived it. Nampeyo lived in Tewa Village on First Mesa and was inspired by pot shards found among the nearby ruins of the ancient village of Sikyátki. Today credit is given to Nampeyo for fully reviving the Sikyátki style. She was so good that Jesse Walter Fewkes, the first archaeologist to formally excavate Sikyátki, was concerned that her creations would shortly become confused with those made hundreds of years previously.

Sikyátki pottery shapes are very distinctive: flattened jars with wide shoulders; low, open bowls decorated inside; seed jars with small openings and flat tops; painting methods of splattering and stippling and very distinctive designs. The Sikyátki style originally evolved when Keres and Towa-speaking potters from New Mexico got together with Water Clan potters from the Hohokam areas of southern Arizona and northern Mexico and they began working with clays found in the Jeddito area. Over the years other clans came to the area and made their own contributions to what we now know as "Sikyátki Polychrome." Accoding to Jesse Walter Fewkes, that merging of styles, techniques and designs created some of the finest ceramics ever produced in prehistoric North America.

Today's Hopi pottery tends to be a white, yellow, orange or buff colored background decorated with designs in red and black mineral paints. Painted designs tend to fill the entire space, often with an asymmetrical and symmetrical design. Most of the symbology painted on Hopi pottery is themed with "bird elements:" eagle tails, feathers, bird wings and migration patterns. Many Hopi, Hopi-Tewa and Tewa potters are members of the Corn Clan and their annual religious cycle revolves around the seasons of corn. The vast majority of today's Hopi pottery shapes and the designs painted on them are obvious descendants of the work of Sikyátki and Awatovi potters.

Waiting for the Snake Dance to begin.  Mishongnovi Pueblo
Hopi, Arizona c. 1895

Mishongnovi Pueblo with Shipaulovi Pueblo in the distance.  
Hopi, Arizona, Feb. 1909

Nampeyo, potter, Hano Pueblo, Hopi, Arizona c. 1915

Map showing the location of the Hopi mesas

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Nampeyo of Hano Family Tree

Disclaimer: This "family tree" is a best effort on our part to determine who the potters are in this family and arrange them in a generational order. The general information available is questionable so we have tried to show each of these diagrams to living members of each family to get their input and approval, too. This diagram is subject to change should we get better info.

    Nampeyo of Hano (c. 1859-1942) & Lesou (c. 1860-1942)
    Their descendants who became potters:
    • Annie Healing Nampeyo (1884-1968) & Will Healing
      Their descendants who became potters:
      • Rachel Namingha Nampeyo (1903-1985) & Emerson Namingha (d. 1992)
        Their descendants who became potters:
        • Priscilla Namingha Nampeyo (1924-2008) & Donnelly Sahmie (d. 2008)
          Their descendants who became potters:
          • Jean Sahmie (b. 1949) & Gordon Tom
            • Donella Zacharias (b. 1972)
              • Kaniela Kootswatewa
          • Randall Sahmie (1950-2008)
            • Randall Sahmie Jr. & Lisa Willa
          • Andrew Louis Sahmie (b. 1952) & Ida Sahmie (Navajo, b. 1960)
          • Nyla Sahmie (b. 1954) & Christopher
            Her descendants who became potters:
            • Kenneth Lynch (b. 1974)
              • Tara Lynch
              • Kira Lynch
            • Michael Collateta (b. 1981)
          • Rachel Sahmie (b. 1956) & Ollie Talashie
            • Carla Talashie
              • Sean Michael Talashie
              • Madison Moreno
          • Bonnie Chapella Sahmie Nampeyo (b. 1958) & Ernest Chapella
            • Doyle Sahmie
            • Sahmie Chapella
        • Ruth James Namingha (1926-2012)
          Her descendants who became potters:
          • Darlene Vigil Nampeyo (b. 1956) & Felix Vigil (Jemez)
            • Candice James
        • Eleanor Lucas (b. 1926)
          Her descendants who became potters:
          • Steve Lucas (b. 1955)
        • Emerson Namingha
          His descendants who became potters:
          • Les Namingha (b. 1967)
        • Lillian Namingha
        • Dextra Quotskuyva Nampeyo (b. 1928)
          Her descendants who became potters:
          • Hisi Quotskuyva Nampeyo (b. 1964)
      • Daisy Hooee Nampeyo (1906-1994)
        Her descendants who became potters:
        • Shirley Benn (b. 1936)
      • Beatrice Naha Nampeyo (1912-1942)
        • Regina Naha
          • Terry Naha
    • Nellie Nampeyo Douma (1896-1978)
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Marie Koopee (b. 1917)
        Her descendants who produced a potter:
        • Jacob Koopee, Sr. (b. 1940) & Georgia Dewakuku Koopee (b. 1944)
          Their descendants who became potters:
          • Jacob Koopee (1970-2011)
      • Augusta Poocha Nampeyo (d. pre-1998)
    • Fannie Polacca Nampeyo (1900-1987) & Vinton Polacca
      Their descendants who became potters:
      • Elva Tewaguna Nampeyo (1926-1985)
        Her descendants who became potters:
        • Miriam Tewaguna Nampeyo (b. 1956)
        • Adelle Lalo Nampeyo (b. 1959)
        • Elton Tewaguna (b. 1953)
        • Neva Polacca Choyou Nampeyo (b. 1947)
      • Leah Garcia Nampeyo (1928-1974)
        Her descendants who became potters:
        • Melda Nampeyo (b. 1959)
        • James Garcia Nampeyo (b. 1958)
        • Rayvin Garcia Nampeyo (b. 1961)
      • Harold Polacca Nampeyo (b. 1930)
        His descendants who became potters:
        • Clinton Polacca (b. 1958)
        • Vernida Polacca Nampeyo (b. 1955)
        • Reva Polacca Ami (b. 1964)
      • Tonita Hamilton Nampeyo (b. 1934)
        Her descendants who became potters:
        • Loren Hamilton (b. 1961)
      • Tom Polacca (1935-2003)
        His descendants who became potters:
        • Gary Polacca Nampeyo (b. 1955)
        • Delmar Polacca
        • Carla Claw (b. 1961)
        • Elvira Naha (b. 1968)
      • Iris Youvella Nampeyo (b. 1944) & Wallace Youvella, Sr. (b. 1947)
        Their descendants who became potters:
        • Nolan Youvella (b. 1970)
        • Wallace Youvella Jr.

Pottery Care & Consideration

  • The most obvious tip: Yes, the pots will break if you drop them!
  • Do not expose pottery to water (Inside or outside). Do not wipe with a damp cloth.
  • Dust pottery only with a soft, smooth cloth (no terry cloth or textured fabric). A very soft paintbrush (sable or camel) can be used.
  • Always use two hands to carry your pot: one on top and one on the bottom, or one hand on each side. Be careful with handles, they can be fragile. Do not grip or lift pots by the rim. Take care when wearing jewelry, rings can scratch the finish.
  • Place a piece of felt or cloth between the pot and the shelf to protect the signature.
  • Avoid exposing pottery to extreme temperature changes.

For those who live in "earthquake country" (also good for mischievous pets):

  • Weigh pots down with a small zip lock bag containing sand, glass marbles, rice, etc. Do not fill the pot more than one third full as you want them bottom heavy. Remember to remove the weight before moving.
  • Secure your shelves; make sure they are well attached to the walls. Shelf brackets should be of sufficient length and strength to support the weight of your pottery.
  • Prevent pots from sliding. Consider attaching a small wooden molding to the front of shelves. Line shelves with non-slip material (a thin sheet of rubber foam, Styrofoam sheeting, etc.)
  • If you need assistance with special problems, major cleaning (your grandchild spills ice cream on your pot), restoration or repair (the cat breaks a pot), or replacement (irreparable damage), please feel free to call us.

We hope these ideas help you maintain the beauty and value of your pottery for years of enjoyment.

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