Emory Sekaquaptewa: Native American anthropologist
Saturday 05 January 2008
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.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...