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Born in Shungopovi, Second Mesa, Arizona, Fred Kabotie, his family and other Hopis founded Hotevilla, an organization to preserve Hopi traditions. In 1913, the children were forced to go to government school, and for discipline he was sent to the Santa Fe Indian School. There he became an accomplished artist and set a new style of modeling in color with some shadows rather than just flat colors.
In 1920, he became a book illustrator and was commissioned to paint Hopi life and customs. In the 1930's, he was commissioned by the Peabody Museum to reproduce Awatovi prehistoric murals in their original size. He also painted a mural inside the Watchtower on the east rim of the Grand Canyon.
From 1937, he taught in Hopi high school and had a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1945. Throughout his career he became a prominent painter, illustrator, silversmith, teacher and writer of Hopi Indian Life.