Thursday, May 31, 2007

Nampeyo and Her Pottery by Barbara Kramer

I was reading a Tewa story from Karl Kroeber's book, Native American Storytelling: A Reader of Myths and Legends. It could be given the name "Laughing Warrior Girl." The Tewa, however, probably would not have named it. They would have just told and retold the story. It was about a rebellious girl who knew she had the talents to be a warrior but continued doing women's work. When called upon to fight she did it happily. But, later, when asked to be a warrior chief she declined and became a healer instead, returning to a more traditional role.

Kroeber notes in his book,
A majority of Native American stories address this paradox - that only in the affirmation of personal independence lies the possibility of an enduringly strong community. It is notable that nearly half the narratives in this collection begin with some equivalent of the Tewa "Where they lived, lived Laughing Warrior Girl." This grounds the story as one of a community of others by the same people ("they") with an established, ongoing life, into which breaks the unusual individual.

Nampeyo was one such extraordinary person. She was born to the Tewa Corn Clan on First Mesa in Arizona. Her mother, White Corn, made pottery for her family's uses and handed the little baby a roll of clay to play with. As a girl, Nampeyo, continued making utilitarian vessels for the family. In her walks on the ranch lands below the mesa she often found unearthed ancient pottery and she studied the designs. Her abilities as a potter grew and these designs became her own, designs to which she added her own individual flair. Nampeyo did her pottery quietly and with dignity, always kind and generous, a women of grace. Her pottery began to be recognized for its artistic achievement. She pursued this artist's path her entire life. But she always, as well, continued on the traditional path of girl, women, wife, and then, mother and grandmother in the Corn Clan of her birth.

What is known of Nampeyo and her family is included in this book. The history of the United States is also included. And the sometimes sweet, more often bitter, relations between the US newcomers and the Hopi/Tewa on First Mesa. Throughout this time period, Nampeyo, her brother Tom Polacca, and her husband Lesso, conducted themselves with great strength. I found their story very compelling.

Period 1 - Canteen for Dr. Joshua Miller

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