A bronze coin for a Hopi alumna

Photo by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

In 2001, the Sherman Indian Museum had this bronze coin designed to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of Sherman Institute (now called Sherman Indian High School). Before I conducted research on the Hopi Reservation, Lorene Sisquoc, director of the Sherman Indian Museum, gave me several of these coins to give to the Hopi alumni that I interviewed.

One of these former students was Bessie Humetewa from the village of Bacavi. She attended the school from 1920 to 1928.  Bessie also appears in Beyond the Mesas where she recalls that she stayed at Sherman “all eight years without coming home.”

At the time of the interview Bessie was blind, and so when I gave her the coin she examined it with her hands. Before I could tell her what was depicted on the coin, she said to me, “this is Sherman.”

She was able to discern the raised design of the school’s main building, the palm tree, and the superintendent’s office. The bronze coin reconnected Bessie to her alma mater. It took her back seventy-six years to when she last attended the Indian school in Riverside, California.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert