Tahoma always told people that he was from Tuba City. In fact he even signed a painting or two “Quincy Tahoma from Tuba City,” but we could find no birth records for him, and it took us a very long time to determine where he was born. Years, in fact.
One key resource came when we asked Mark Bahti to see if he could find out from his friend Harrison Begay if Begay knew anything about Tahoma. Bahti is the 2nd generation owner of Bahti Indian Arts in Tuson, and Harrison Begay used to stay with the Bahti family for a time each year. We knew Tahoma and Begay had both gone to school at Santa Fe Indian School. Since Navajos were a minority in the predominantly Pueblo Indian school, we figured Navajos might have stuck together. Bahti wrote to Begay, and Begay sent a lengthy, hand-written letter back with all he could remember and find out about
Tahoma. Unfortunately, he said, “I found out I didn’t know very much about Quincy Tahoma.” We knew the feeling. Among the things he wrote to Bahti, was his recollection that Quincy was born not far from Tuba City in a place near Elephant Feet. This was marginally helpful, since there are at least two Elephant Feet locations in Arizona on the Navajo Reservation, but one is near Tuba City.
We had a false lead when someone suggested that Tahoma was born at Shonto. I drove there and talked to people at the trading post, which is in the bottom of a pretty little canyon, but this was a dead end as far as information was concerned. We contacted Dr. William Adams, who grew up at Shonto and wrote about it, and he had no recollection of Tahoma being from there.
Our second big break came when Mark Rosacker of New Mexico found out about our work, and volunteered to help with research into Tahoma’s family. Our third major source of information, which dove-tailed with Mark’s work, came from the United States National Archives in the Denver office, where they keep at least some of the school records from Santa Fe Indian School. More about Mark and the archives in the another post.
Posted by Vera Marie Badertscher