Fred Kabotie

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Fred Kabotie

Fred Kabotie is one of the best known Native American artists. He was born in 1900 and died in 1985.

As a child he rebelled against school because he felt he was being forced to adopt the ‘white mans ways’ and told to forget his Hopi Indian heritage. Later in his childhood he attended the Santa Fe Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At first, this school was the same as the other schools he attended - until John David DeHuff became director of the school.

Carrying on Tradition

John de Huff began to encourage young Native American students to learn about their culture and find new ways to carry on tradition. With encouragement from his school, Fred Kabotie quickly became an accomplished artist and began to illustrate books on Hopi legends and mythology.

Fred Kabotie is now internationally recognized, and considered to be one of the top Native American artists.


Fred Kabotie also worked as a silversmith and the Museum of Northern Arizona encouraged Kabotie and his cousin Paul Saufkai to develop a jewelry style unique to Hopi people. Between them they developed an overlay technique, distinct from Zuni and Navajo silversmithing.

They also created designs inspired by traditional Hopi pottery. At one point a friend and benefactor, Leslie Van Ness Denman, commissioned Kabotie's first piece of jewelry as a gift to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Jewelry School

Starting in 1947 the Indian Service and GI Bill funded jewelry classes at the Hopi High School at Oraibi for returning Hopi veterans of World War II. Kabotie taught design and Saufkie taught technique. There were two separate classes taught by Kabotie and Saufkie and each lasted about eighteen months.

To showcase their students' work, they created the Hopi Silvercraft Cooperative Guild in 1949. In 1963, the Hopi Guild moved from Oraibi to a newly constructed building on Second Mesa that included a large showroom and workshop space for the artists.

Fred Kabotie worked with the Guild in various ways, serving as president from 1960 until his retirement in 1971. The shop on Second Mesa is rarely used by students today.