Business Beat: Cory Ahownewa recognized for his Hopi kachina dolls at MNA Heritage Festival

Cory Ahownewa poses with one of his kachinas and his first place ribbon from the Museum of Northern Arizona Heritage Festival.   (Wendy Howell/NHO)

Cory Ahownewa poses with one of his kachinas and his first place ribbon from the Museum of Northern Arizona Heritage Festival. (Wendy Howell/NHO)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— Cory Ahownewa is no stranger to hardships, however, he has learned to use those hardships to inspire others through his stories and artwork.

Ahownewa is from the Village of Hotevilla, the Badger and Butterfly Clan. He makes Hopi traditional kachina dolls with natural pigment.

Ahownewa said he was artistic as a young child, but wasn’t able to continue his work because of the trouble he ran into.

“In fifth grade, around the age of 11, I began drinking alcohol,” he said. “From then on I was in jail, and my family couldn’t continue to pay for my court costs.”

Despite this, Ahownewa said his sister’s friend was able to see his talent and began to mentor him.

“He saw my paintings and took me under his wing and taught me a lot about art,” he said.

After watching several family members struggle with alcoholism and seeing what it was doing to his own life, he decided to make a change in his life.

“From the age of 20, I lost a lot of family members along the way,” he said. “I had a son and I stopped drinking cold turkey. So I went to the kiva and got inspiration.”

Ahownewa said another life changing event was when he began taking river trips with Native elders on the Colorado River.

He then began applying for shows and became recognized for his kachinas.

Ahownewa said he has been doing a lot of healing this year.

Last year, Ahownewa and his family spent a lot of time in hospitals because his son was diagnosed with a heart condition.

“They said he was going to have open heart surgery, which really scared me,” he said. “The first trip in the canyon I did for my son. So on the first trip I stopped at all of the Hopi shrines and prayed to the higher powers.”

Ahownewa said also credits the knowledge he gained from the Native elders who came along.

“We stopped at the Hopi salt mine and visited the sites,” he said. “This year will be my third one in August. I try to educate people about the importance of these shrines and why they need to be protected.”

Ahownewa’s art can be found at Desert View at Grand Canyon National Park. He can be reached at cahownewa@gmail.com

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