In 2005, I published an article on a Hopi chief named Tawaquaptewa from Orayvi on Third Mesa. He was kikmongwi (village chief) at Orayvi during a very unstable time in Hopi history. In the early 1900s the village of Orayvi was divided over several issues. One of these issues was the mandatory enrollment of Hopi children at government schools.
In the past scholars have produced a great deal of material on Tawaquaptewa, but most of the scholarship focuses on Tawaquaptewa during this period. However, when I was writing my book on the Hopi boarding school experience I came across a fascinating article by Barry Walsh titled “Kikmongwi As Artist: The Katsina Dolls of Wilson Tawaquaptewa” in the American Indian Art Magazine (Winter 1998).
Walsh highlights an area of Tawaquaptewa’s life that has not received much attention. Tawaquaptewa was a carver and he sold his katsina dolls to tourists who visited the reservation between 1930 and 1960. Today his dolls are highly sought after by collectors. A website called TribalArtCollections.com has a photo gallery of his work.
In March 2008, the Antiques Roadshow (PBS) featured one of Tawaquaptewa’s katsina dolls. The segment is less than 3 minutes long, but I think you will find it interesting. To see the video click here. I have also pasted the appraisal transcript below.
Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert
The following transcript was originally published on the Antiques Roadshow (PBS) website at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/archive/200705A39.html
20th-Century Wilson Tawaquaptewa Kachina Doll
Aired: March 31, 2008
GUEST: It’s a kachina doll. It was my father’s. I got it after he passed away. He taught school in Southern Idaho. During the ’20s, when they relocated tribal people from different places, they sent the children all over the United States, and this young man became a friend of my father’s, and when he left school, he gave my dad the doll, so…
APPRAISER: Do you know where it came from?
GUEST: From hearing what my dad talked about and what he said, you know, that it was from… Southwest America somewhere.
APPRAISER: It’s from Northern Arizona.
GUEST: Northern Arizona?
APPRAISER: It is a kachina doll, but… there’s some different things about this one that makes it a little bit special. It’s not like most kachina dolls. We actually know who made this doll.
GUEST: Oh, really?
APPRAISER: Yeah. It was made by a guy named Wilson Tawaquaptewa.
GUEST: Oh, my goodness.
APPRAISER: And he was the Hopi chief at Oraibi, but there’s two Oraibi villages and I’m not sure which one it was.
GUEST: See, that name sounds familiar.
APPRAISER: Yeah, but… because he was the chief, he wasn’t going to do something traditional and sell it, and so he made these kachinas that are like no other kachinas.
APPRAISER: You go through the books and you’re not going to find one of these, because they most often represent a badger, or they have characteristics of a mouse or some animal in his world out there that’s not a traditional kachina, and this is one of them. The way that we spotted it is he liked to use this indigo color, and… it’s this really faded blue here.
GUEST: I never noticed it.
APPRAISER: Yeah, we almost didn’t, too. Tawaquaptewa worked from about 1930 into the early 1960s. If it wasn’t one of his and it was a kachina that looked like it was from the ’30s like this one, that’s worth some pretty good money– $2,500…
GUEST: Oh, my goodness.
APPRAISER:…to $3,500, but because it’s a Wilson Tawaquaptewa, there’s a group of collectors now who recognize his work, who buy his work. On a bad day, this is worth $7,500 to $8,500. Uh… …if it’s a good day and the right collector’s in the room, $9,000.
GUEST: My goodness.
APPRAISER: So it’s something real special and it’s something real unique that you ended up with.
GUEST: Oh, no kidding, and to know that, you know, you can recognize the maker, you know…
GUEST:…that is, that is amazing. That surprises me, surprises me a great deal.
APPRAISER: Great. Yeah.
GUEST: Yeah, it does.