Emory Sekaquaptewa: Native American anthropologist


Emory Sekaquaptewa, anthropologist, lexicographer and silversmith: born Hotevilla, Arizona 28 December 1928; Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona 1972-77, Lecturer in Anthropology 1977-2007, Research Anthropologist, Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology 1990-2007; twice married (one daughter); died Tucson, Arizona 14 December 2007.

In an age witnessing the demise of languages and cultural diversity, it is given to few individuals to buck that trend. Emory Sekaquaptewa was one of those individuals. He reinvigorated and added to the culture of the Native American Hopi people on a number of levels linguistically, in education through the medium of Hopi, through the judiciary and through metalworking.

However, Hopi history will remember him best and with most pride for his contributions to the perpetuation of the language. This was no small feat given the banning of indigenous languages in schooling in the not-so-distant American past. Gordon Krutz, a colleague of his at the University of Arizona hailed Sekaquaptewa as "the Noah Webster of the Hopi nation". (The Noah in question lent his name to Webster's Dictionary.) Over 30 years Sekaquaptewa, beginning like all pre-computer lexicographers with scraps of paper and card indexes, assembled the first Hopi-English dictionary. Hopi, like most languages, has no standard or received variant and, like most traditionally oral languages, it is highly complex philologically and idiomatically.

In 1998 the University of Arizona published his Hopi Dictionary/Hopiikwa Lavaytutuveni: a Hopi-English dictionary of the Third Mesa dialect with an English-Hopi finder list and a sketch of grammar. It polarised opinion and engaged debate. As the writer and educator Cynthia Dagnal Myron explains, the dictionary "was highly controversial on Hopi, where there are at least three dialects and where most people, no matter how fluent they may seem, do not believe they really speak Hopi well. However, he ploughed onward, and the book was completed to the consternation of some elders. He will be remembered by our family more for his humility than his grand achievements elsewhere. He was just 'Uncle Emory' to us, the guy who let us sit on his doorsteps during katsina dances, and always seemed to be smiling".

Just as English speakers built on the pioneering works of Dr Johnson and Noah Webster, subsequent generations of lexicographers Hopis and custodians of other Native American linguistic traditions alike will find a firm foundation in Sekaquaptewa's work.

The Hopi nation is concentrated in three "mesas" in north eastern Arizona (mesas are the high, flat-topped mountains where Native American peoples build their homes). Emory Sekaquaptewa was born in Hotevilla in the Third Mesa in 1928. His birth was never formally noted so he took 28 December as his birthday for official purposes.

Metalworking, working silver in particular, is deep in the Hopi psyche. Sekaquaptewa and his older brother Wayne are credited with developing an innovative silversmithing technique called "matting", which enhances the permanence of overlaid patterns through a process of oxidisation.

After graduating from the University of Arizona in 1970, he joined the university's Anthropology Department in 1972, and rose through its professorial hierarchy. In 1990 he became a research anthropologist for its Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology. From 1978 he was also a member of the judiciary, and eventually became an appellate judge for the Hopi nation, a role which included sitting on the bench when Hopi-Navajo boundary cases were determined.

Ken Hunt

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering