Learning About Fred Kabotie

Post by Vera Marie

Fred Kabotie Mural

Slide of Fred Kabotie Mural from Ed Kabotie's talk

Hopi artist Fred Kabotie (1900-1986), born nearly twenty years before Quincy Tahoma, had many talents. ¬†While I knew about his skillful paintings and murals, and his children’s book illustrations, I learned more about him when his grandson Ed Kabotie spoke at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. It turns out that there are some parallels between Fred Kabotie and Quincy Tahoma.

Museum of Northern Arizona entrance

Museum of Northern Arizona entrance

Ed, a musician and silversmith, talked about his grandfather just before I took the floor to talk about the life of Quincy Tahoma. We spoke in the spacious auditorium at the Museum, a charming sprawl of exhibit spaces inside a stone house in the woods along the road to the Grand Canyon.

Museum of Northern Arizona

Museum of Northern Arizona

Ed recalled his grandfather late in life when as a young boy knew him as a farmer, a musician, and a patient teacher. Ed says he was aware of awards hanging on the walls and a constant stream of visitors that wanted to talk to his grandfather, but the reality of Fred Kabotie’s fame was eclipsed by the simple love of this man who gave him good advice for living.

Ed Kaboti looks at jewelry

Ed Kaboti looks at Hopi inlay jewelry

Like Quincy Tahoma, Kabotie’s last name was a corruption of his native name, Quaavotay, (meaning tomorrow) and his first name was randomly chosen by a teacher at school. Tahoma was an English version of his clan name, and Quincy was arbitrarily assigned.

Fred Kabotie never liked school, but he was talked into going to Santa Fe Indian School with the promise that after three years he would never have to go to school again. The school turned out to be good for him. In an era when Indian schools’ main objective was to take the “Indian out of the Indian,” superintendent John DeHuff went against the rules and encouraged the children to honor their own traditions.

When he was there, Kabotie’s talent was recognized by the wife of the Superintendent, Elizabeth DeHuff, who held informal art classes in her home for promising students. This was many years before Tahoma’s teacher, Dorothy Dunn established the Studio.

In the 1920’s Elizabeth DeHuff hired Kabotie to illustrate several children’s books, and the Museum of New Mexico also hired him for illustrations. Like Tahoma, he usually painted in water color on paper. And in another parallel in their lives, DeHuff hired Tahoma in the 1940’s to illustrate two children’s books. These books, however, were never published and Tahoma’s charming paintings are hidden away in drawers in the Center for Southwest Research Library at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

Setting up the slide show

Setting up the Quincy Tahoma slide show

Kabotie also became known for his many murals. Because of the DeHuffs’ encouragement, Fred Kabotie met and worked for archaeologist Edgar Lee Hewitt and was hired to recreate ancient Kiva paintings and to create his own art work at places like the Desert View Watch Tower created by Mary Colter at the Grand Canyon in 1934. (The Watch Tower painting appears at the top of this page).

Although we have not seen any direct evidence that Quincy Tahoma knew Fred Kabotie, the American Indian art scene was rather small, and it is likely that when Tahoma was in high school, Dorothy Dunn would have introduced Kabotie to her students. Tahoma may also have run into Kabotie during the 1940’s. At any rate, I was happy to get to know more about this pioneering American Indian Artist.

Ed Kaboti and Vera Marie Badertscher at Museum of Northern Arizona

Ed Kaboti and Vera Marie Badertscher at Museum of Northern Arizona

All paintings here are the property of Ken Badertscher. Please respect the copyright.


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2 Responses to Learning About Fred Kabotie

  1. Michael Snodgrass says:

    What instrument did Fred play?

  2. pen4hire says:

    Sorry, if I learned that one, I’ve forgotten. You’ll have to look up Ed Kabotie and ask him.

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