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OBITUARIES | Passings | Emory Sekaquaptewa

Created dictionary of Hopi language

December 26, 2007|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Emory Sekaquaptewa, 78, an anthropologist, judge and artist who was called the "Noah Webster of the Hopi Nation," died Dec. 14, the University of Arizona announced.

Tribal officials confirmed his death, but the location and cause were not disclosed.

Although his birth date was never recorded, he was believed to have been born in 1928 and celebrated his birthdays on Dec. 28, the university said.

Born at Hotevilla, Ariz., on the Hopi Nation's Third Mesa, Sekaquaptewa attended the U.S. Military Academy and graduated from Brigham Young University in 1953.

He served two years in the Air Force before receiving his law degree from the University of Arizona. Sekaquaptewa became a noted research anthropologist in the university's Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology.

Sekaquaptewa also taught courses including Hopi Language and Culture during a teaching career that spanned nearly 40 years.

With his brother, Wayne, he opened a silversmith shop, Hopicrafts, in 1961. They developed innovative silver overlay jewelry production methods.

He held various leadership positions with the Hopi and founded and served as chief judge of the Hopi Appellate Court, where he melded federal and state laws with Hopi traditional rules in judging tribal disputes. He also worked with students in the UCLA Law School's Tribal Legal Development Clinic, introducing them to the Hopi culture and the tribe's internal legal system.

"I am educating the world to a greater appreciation of Indians in general and the Hopi people in particular," Sekaquaptewa told The Times in 2003.

But perhaps the achievement that Sekaquaptewa most cherished was his work in compiling and publishing the Hopi nation's first written dictionary.

He completed the research with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and published the Hopi dictionary in 1998, with nearly 30,000 entries and guides for pronunciation.

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