Redbird in 1940, Sayles image, using a paddle to thin the wall of a pot she is creating
|Died||August 10, 1971 (aged 79)|
Gila River Indian Reservation
|Nationality||American, Gila River Indian Community|
|Known for||1940s Maricopa pottery revival|
Ida Redbird (1892-1971) was a Maricopa potter from the Gila River Indian Community of the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona. She was the first president of the Maricopa Pottery Maker's Association and was widely credited with the revival of ancient Maricopa pottery techniques and forms. Her polished black-on-redware pottery was highly prized with collectors. Texas photographer Ted Sayles shot a series documenting Redbird sculpting her pottery. The series toured museums throughout the Western United States
Ida Redbird was born March 15, 1892, in Laveen on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona to Hoot Somegustava. Hoot, Ida's mother, is sometimes described as Tohono O'odham and at other times as Maricopa-Halchidhoma. Ida was the granddaughter of Kutox (also known as Kutŏ’x̣ or Uwȧ’nyȧ), who was Halchidhoma and wife of Charlie Redbird (also known as Matȧkwĭsnunyĕ’), who was Maricopa-Halchidhoma. Ida attended Phoenix Indian School, where her former teacher remembered her a being a shy, serious student, who learned pottery at a young age.
In the 1920s, Redbird acted as an interpreter for Leslie Spier's work Yuman Tribes of the Gila River. By the 1930s, her work became known and was selling to dealers from Los Angeles, though for mere pennies. Even though the Great Depression had reduced all wages, the price was still a pittance–a situation Redbird sought to change. Organizing other potters, and backed by Elizabeth Hart, a Home Extension Agent for the U.S. Indian Service, Redbird strove to improve their products so potters could increase their prices. Her efforts earned her the respect of fellow potters, who elected her first president of the Maricopa Pottery Maker's Association.
Redbird's pottery was typically a highly polished redware painted with designs in black slip. She built her pots with the paddle-and-anvil technique rather than a coil method. Her method was developed by ancient Hohokam artisans and used local clay from the Gila Riverbed. Once the vessel had dried for several days, a red clay from the Superstition Mountains was liquefied in and applied. When that slip dried, it was burnished with a stone and then fired outside. When the firing had been completed and while the piece was still hot, geometric shapes were painted on it with a boiled mesquite-bark dye.
In 1940, E. B. "Ted" Sayles took images of Redbird and her pottery making techniques. Sales, who was curator of the Arizona State Museum in Tucson, took the photographs to Abilene, Texas, for a show at the Abilene Fine Arts Museum. They were also featured in Arizona Highways Magazine in January 1948. From 1941 until her death, Redbird taught summer classes and exhibited her works at the Heard Museum of Phoenix, Arizona. She and Mary Juan also held pottery classes at Casa Grande.
In 1949, Redbird served as an interpreter for Lenora S. M. Curtin in her study of the Pima people, By the Prophet of the Earth.  Curtin described Redbird as one of the two best potters of the Maricopa and noted that she was also a skilled herbalist. Guy Acuff regarded Redbird and Lena Mesquerre as two of the best Maricopa potters. Paul Huldermann, founder of the Scottsdale National Indian Arts Exhibition; Tom Cain, curator of the Heard Museum; Dr. Carl Guthe, a one-time president of the American Museum Association; and Kermit Lee, an Arizona Indian art collector all described her as one of the very best Southwestern Native American potters, but Redbird herself thought that Mary Juan was better than she. She exhibited at fairs, museums, and gatherings such as the All-Indian Fair in Lake George, New York and the 1968 Tohono O'odham Powwow held at Casa Grande.
Death and legacy
After completing work on some pots, Redbird sat them out to dry and laid down to take a nap on August 10, 1971. The tree under which she was sleeping on the reservation fell on her and killed her.
A special display of Redbird's works was held shortly after her death at the Heard Museum. Redbird was inducted into the Arizona Women's Hall of Fame in 1985. In 2015, Redbird's work was shown along with other Arizona Native American potters' work in an exhibition at the Amerind Museum and Art Gallery.
- Gale 2012.
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- Walker 1985, p. 8C.
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- Smith 1953, p. 11A.
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- The Casa Grande Dispatch 1971, p. 7.
- The Arizona Independent Republic 1941, p. 27.
- Curtin 1949, p. 36.
- Curtin 1949, p. 39.
- Acuff 1975, p. 4.
- The Arizona Republic 1970, p. 178.
- The Arizona Republic & May 31, 1970, pp. 177-178.
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- The Lodi News-Sentinel 1971, p. 5.
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- Acuff, Guy (July 2, 1975). "Off the Cuff". Casa Grande, Arizona: The Casa Grande Dispatch. Retrieved 15 August 2016 – via Newspapers.com. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- Curtin, Lenora S. M. (1949). By the Prophet of the Earth. Santa Fe, New Mexico: San Vicente Foundation. OCLC 619867024.
- Ditzler, Robert E. (1967). The Indian people of Arizona. New York, New York: Vantage Press. OCLC 2118356.
- Ferg, Alan (2015). Arizona State Museum. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4671-3162-9.
- Gale, Jaime (February 15, 2012). "History of Ida Redbird". Mesa, Arizona: Mesa Arizona Public Schools. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
- Hayes, Allan; Blom, John; Hayes, Carol (2015). Southwestern Pottery: Anasazi to Zuni (2nd ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-58979-862-5.
- Roberts, Kathaleen (June 7, 2015). "Former Jemez Pueblo governor discovers pueblo's long-lost original black-on-white pottery". The Albuquerque Journal. Albuquerque, New Mexico. Archived from the original on August 15, 2016. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
- Smith, Ida (October 31, 1953). "Meet an Indian Pottery-Maker". Lewiston, Maine: Lewiston Evening Journal. AP. Retrieved 15 August 2016. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- Spier, Leslie (1978). Yuman Tribes of the Gila River (unabridged republication of the original 1933 ed.). New York, New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 978-0-486-23611-7.
- Walker, Bonnie (October 20, 1985). "Women's Hall of Fame inducts former county leader, 3 others". The Courier. Prescott, Arizona. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
- Weber, Will (August 18, 1971). "Hole in the Sky: Big Vacuum Left by Ida Redbird (pt. 1)". Casa Grande, Arizona: The Casa Grande Dispatch. Retrieved 15 August 2016 – via Newspapers.com. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
|publisher=(help) and "Hole in the Sky: Big Vacuum Left by Ida Redbird (pt. 2)". Casa Grande, Arizona: The Casa Grande Dispatch. August 18, 1971. Retrieved 15 August 2016 – via Newspapers.com. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- "E. B. Sayles Photographic Shop Opens Friday at Abilene Museum". The Abilene Reporter-News. Abilene, Texas. December 1, 1946. Retrieved 15 August 2016 – via Newspaperarchive.com.
- "How great, really, was her artistry in pottery?". The Arizona Republic. Phoenix, Arizona. May 31, 1970. Retrieved 15 August 2016 – via Newspaperarchive.com.
- "Ida Redbird: the Forgotten Woman? (pt 1)". The Arizona Republic. Phoenix, Arizona. May 31, 1970. Retrieved 15 August 2016 – via Newspaperarchive.com. and "Ida Redbird: the Forgotten Woman? (pt 2)". The Arizona Republic. Phoenix, Arizona. May 31, 1970. Retrieved 15 August 2016 – via Newspaperarchive.com.
- "Ida Redbird's Works Displayed at Museum". Casa Grande, Arizona: The Casa Grande Dispatch. October 25, 1971. Retrieved 15 August 2016 – via Newspapers.com. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- "Indian Potter Dies When Tree Falls on Her". Lodi, California: The Lodi News-Sentinel. August 12, 1971. Retrieved 14 August 2016. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- "Indians Will Exhibit at Casa Grande". Tucson, Arizona: The Tucson Daily Citizen. February 8, 1968. Retrieved 15 August 2016 – via Newspapers.com. Italic or bold markup not allowed in:
- "Pottery Firing to Be Exhibited". Phoenix, Arizona: The Arizona Independent Republic. March 21, 1941. Retrieved 15 August 2016 – via Newspaperarchive.com. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: