Posts Tagged 'Native authors'

The search for Polingaysi Qoyawayma

When I started researching on the Hopi boarding school experience at Sherman Institute, I thought for sure that I would come across many references of Polingaysi Qoyawayma (Elizabeth Q. White) at the Sherman Indian Museum. She is, after all, one of the school’s most famous alums. I looked in the Sherman Bulletin, the school’s student-written newspaper. I examined various letterpress books and other school records, but I never came across her name.

While conducting research at the National Archives in Laguna Niguel, California, I uncovered a file with a name similar to Polingaysi Qoyawayma written on the tab. I thought I found the documents that I had been searching for. But when I examined the records closely I discovered that the file belonged to someone else.

In an attempt to find clues that would lead me to archival information on Qoyawayma, I reread Don Talayesva’s autobiography Sun Chief. Talayesva and Qoyawayma attended Sherman at the same time. They both came from Orayvi and likely traveled with each other to the school in November 1906. But nowhere in Talayesva’s book does he mention her name.

Fortunately, one does need to depend on Talayesva or an archive to learn about Qoyawayma’s experience at the Indian school in Riverside. Although the archival record may appear to be silent, at least in reference to her time at Sherman, her story remains with her family, others who knew her, and in her book No Turning Back.

The documents that I searched for may never surface. They may not even exist. But Qoyawayma has already shared with us about her school days at Sherman Institute. She has already provided us with the archive, the documents, and the narrative of her life.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

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Beyond the Mesas co-executive producer publishes new book

Stewart B. Koyiyumptewa, Carolyn O’Bagy Davis, Hopi Cultural Preservation Office. The Hopi People. Arcadia Publishing, 2009. 128pp. paper, $21.99

This past summer Stewart B. Koyiyumptewa, archivist for the Hopi Tribe and co-executive producer of Beyond the Mesas, published a book along with Carolyn O’Bagy Davis and the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office (HCPO) titled The Hopi People. The book was released by Arcadia Publishing as part of its “Images of America” series. With nearly two hundred black and white photos and several pencil drawings and paintings, The Hopi People provides a concise introduction to Hopi history and culture. Consistent with other books in the “Images of America” series, The Hopi People utilizes photographs and captions to tell a historical narrative. In this book the narrative centers on Hopi life, religion, art, farming, and current issues. One of the chapters is dedicated entirely to Hopi schooling. In Chapter 5, “We Got Real Homesick”, the authors describe the ways Hopis resisted the U.S. government’s policy that required Hopi children to attend schools on and off the reservation. Topics in this chapter include the Hopi day school system, industrial and domestic training, curriculums based on Hopi culture, the Keams Canyon Boarding School, Polingaysi Qoyawayma, and former Senator Barry Goldwater’s support of education efforts on the Hopi mesas. Accompanied by a number of previously unpublished photographs, Chapter 5 is primarily about Hopi schooling on the reservation and not at off-reservation Indian boarding schools. Published with the cooperation and involvement of the HCPO, and several Hopis who provided photos and information on specific pictures, The Hopi People is truly a remarkable publication and it is sure to receive high praise from other reviewers. To learn how you can order a copy of The Hopi People, click here.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Remembering Polingaysi Qoyawayma

Nineteen years ago on December 6, 1990, Polingaysi Qoyawayma (Elizabeth Q. White), passed away with family at her side in Phoenix, Arizona. Born in 1892, Polingaysi was from the village of Orayvi on Third Mesa, and she is perhaps best known for her book (as told to Vada Carlson) No Turning Back: A Hopi Woman’s Struggle to Live in Two Worlds. I never had the honor of meeting Polingaysi, but her story is often told among our people. In November 1906, shortly after an internal dispute in her village, Polingaysi left by wagon with a group of Hopi children to the small town of Winslow, Arizona. From there she boarded a Santa Fe train to San Bernardino, California, then traveled south to Sherman Institute in Riverside. She experienced a different life in the “land of oranges,” and she wrote at length about her time at Sherman in No Turning Back. After spending almost three years at the school, Polingaysi returned to Orayvi and found it difficult to acclimate to reservation life. She eventually became the first Hopi to teach at a Hopi day school, and she encouraged her students to take the best of Hopi and American culture to succeed as a people. Although Polingaysi is often associated with No Turning Back, she also wrote a second book in 1941 titled The Sun Girl, which was illustrated by Hopi artist Komoki. In this children’s book, Polingaysi retells a story of a young girl named Dawamana (“Sun Maiden” or “Sun Girl”) from Orayvi who learns the Butterfly Dance at the village of Moencopi. In the foreword to the book’s 1978 edition, Robert Breunig of the Museum of Northern Arizona notes that “Mrs. Qoyawayma told this story many times to her school children. They became so enthralled with it that they asked that it be repeated again and again, and they learned it almost word for word, correcting deviations from one telling to the next. Finally, Mrs. Qoyawayma wrote the story down in the hope that all children would enjoy it.” Nineteen years after her passing, Polingaysi’s life and work are still remembered. She is one of the most revered teachers and writers in Hopi history, and her example and words continue to have great meaning and relevance for those in the present.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert


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© Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS, 2009-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About the author

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert is enrolled with the Hopi Tribe from the village of Upper Moencopi in northeastern Arizona. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and a Dean's Fellow and Conrad Humanities Scholar in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Foreword to Kevin Whalen’s Native Students at Work: American Indian Labor and Sherman Institute’s Outing Program, 1900-1945

A Second Wave of Hopi Migration (History of Education Quarterly, August 2014)

Sun Chief: An Autobiography of A Hopi Indian by Don C. Talayesva, New foreword by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert (Sept. 2013)

Marathoner Louis Tewanima and the Continuity of Hopi Running, 1908-1912 (Western Historical Quarterly, Autumn 2012). Winner of Spur Award for Best Western Short Nonfiction, Western Writers of America (2013)

“Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930”, American Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 1, March Issue 2010 (Click image to download article)

Hopi runner Philip Zeyouma’s trophy cups featured on cover of American Quarterly

Education beyond the Mesas: Hopi Students at Sherman Institute, 1902-1929 (University of Nebraska Press, 2010)

Education beyond the Mesas – Introduction (click image to download)

“‘The Hopi Followers’: Chief Tawaquaptewa and Hopi Student Advancement at Sherman Institute, 1906-1909”, Journal of American Indian Education, (Click image to download article)

The Indian School on Magnolia Avenue: Voices and Images From Sherman Institute (Oregon State University Press, 2012)

Arizona English Teachers Association highlights Hopi authors (click image to download)

Constitution and Bylaws of the Hopi Tribe (With all amendments, click to download)

Click to listen to KUYI On-Line

Matt’s Goodreads

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