Rachel Namingha Nampeyo


Rachel Namingha Nampeyo (1900-1990) was a Hopi-Tewa potter of the Nampeyo family tradition. She made pottery beginning from when her grandmother, Nampeyo of Hano, started teaching her and she continued making pottery almost to the day she died.

Nampeyo of Hano (1858-1942) is the famous Hopi-Tewa potter who revitalized Hopi pottery by creating a contemporary style inspired by the ancient designs found on pottery shards from the prehistoric pueblo ruins around her home at First Mesa.

By the time Rachel was born, the Bureau of Indian Affairs had decreed that Indian children were to be educated off-reservation in government boarding schools, to make them more "white." Before she began school, Rachel was one of the children who accompanied Nampeyo and Annie Healing to the Grand Canyon in 1905. Rachel started school at the Polacca Day School and finished at the Phoenix Indian School.

Rachel was a strict traditionalist, always sticking to making the forms and painting the designs she had learned from Nampeyo. She also chided any overly innovative deviations in that tradition made by her daughters Priscilla and Dextra and their children.

Rachel's children were of the opinion that Rachel had learned more from Nampeyo than from her mother, Annie Healing. Annie and her husband, Will Healing, had a farm with livestock. Most of their time was occupied with keeping that going. When Rachel was not in school, she was either on the farm working or in the Corn Clan house of her grandmother. As head of the Corn Clan, Nampeyo had other functions to perform, too, but she was also almost constantly forming, painting or firing pottery: she wasn't totally blind until about 1925. After that she kept forming pottery but usually either her daughter Fannie or her granddaughter Daisy did her painting and firing.

After graduation from Phoenix Indian School, Rachel worked as a cook at the Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado. Among the other young women employed there during the same time were Sadie Adams, Laura Lomakema and Rachel's aunt, Fannie Nampeyo. There's a story about Sadie, Laura and Fannie conspiring together and, as a prank, locking Rachel in a dark closet. Rachel was so frightened when she got out that she left and went home.

Rachel married Emerson Namingha around 1923. Over the next fifteen years they had seven children. Those kids grew up watching their mother make pottery. Ruth James, Dextra Quotskutva, Priscilla Namingha and Eleanor Lucas learned that way and passed it on to their kids the same way.

Black on red bowl with a bird element and geometric design A bird element and geometric design in black on a red bowl
2 1/4 in H by 4 in Dia

Hopi Potters