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In 1916 Elizabeth Willis DeHuff’s husband, John David DeHuff, became superintendent of the Santa Fe Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Elizabeth, twenty-four years old and educated as a teacher at Barnard College in New York, quickly became interested in the art and culture of the couple’s new home, and in the students who attended the school. DeHuff began inviting boys from the school into her home for afternoon painting lessons. Students that received training included Fred Kabotie, Otis Polelonema (both Hopi) and Velino Shije Herrera (of Zia Pueblo). Controversy eventually erupted around Elizabeth’s art instruction and methods when critics alleged that her painting sessions encouraged paganism, emphasizing traditional stories and documenting tribal religious customs. As the pictures in this collection demonstrate, students drew and painted imagery and scenes related to their heritage, using ink, pencil, and paint to anchor themselves against the foreign environment of their boarding school. DeHuff’s role in promoting certain themes is unclear, but the sheer number of images produced by the students in this collection suggest they responded with enthusiasm to her efforts. Yale undergraduate Elizabeth Reese ('11), from Nambé Pueblo, observed about the drawings: As a Southwest American Indian, I look at these paintings and see not only my heritage, but the fight to keep it. I look at these paintings and I see our survival." 199 drawings and watercolors by Pueblo, Navajo, Apache, Cheyenne, and Kiowa artists, much of it student work, collected by Elizabeth Willis DeHuff, wife of the superintendent of the Santa Fe Indian School and an early art instructor of many of the artists. The art work varies in size: 56 x 36 cm. and smaller. The collection reveals connections and relationships that the DeHuffs cultivated with Indian artists in the Southwest and reveals the development and evolution of the individual style of specific artists and the prominence of certain themes and subjects in their work. Some of the work present in the collection appears to be related to DeHuff’s publishing projects, bearing crop marks and other annotations related to printing. Over 55 individual American Indian artists are represented in the collection, including: Cite as: Elizabeth Willis DeHuff Collection of American Indian Art. Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
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