Franc Johnson Newcomb’s
documentation of Navajo art and culture—writing,
lecturing, reproduction of ritual sandpaintings,
and her collection of Navajo photographs, have
made a significant impact on Southwestern studies.
Her work, abetted by her friendship with Navajo
leader Hosteen Klah, has been instrumental to
the preservation of Navajo culture.
Newcomb’s career was shaped and etched
by her experiences living on the Navajo Reservation,
but her accomplishments remain relatively marginalized.
As a result of her relationship
with the Navajo people, and a reputation as a
woman with medicine, she received the Navajo name
“Atsay Ashon” (medicine woman).
Her collection of photographs and sandpaintings
were gifted to the "Dine", the Navajo
People, and are held at the Navajo Community college
in Tsaile, Arizona, under the direction of Harry
Walters, who was instrumental in bringing this
collection to the college.
Newcomb's introduction to fieldwork as an ethnographer
and artist developed through her closeness to
the surrounding Navajo community but particularly
due to her friendship with Hosteen Klah (1867-1937),
was considered a great man of his tribe. This
association opened up a world of serious scholarship
that Newcomb accepted with great enthusiasm. The
progressive Klah was the first to welcome A.J.
and later Franc Newcomb, as he helped them understand
and become integrated into Navajo society. He
was one of the most renowned and respected singers,
proficient in several ceremonies including Nightway,
Chiricahua Windway, Hailway, and portions of others.
These images are provided courtesy of The Morton
H. Sachs Collection of Franc Newcomb Sand Paintings
Courtesey of Patricia Fogelman Lange