Native American Expert Dr. James Kemp Returns to the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society

Dr. James Kemp, an expert on Native American culture, will return to the Santa Fe Historical Society on October 25 to discuss kachina dolls and dances. Dr. Kemp is a popular speaker about Native American artifacts, and his events sell out quickly. Advance registration is required.

During this visit, Dr. Kemp will examine the history of kachina dolls in Native American culture. The katsina figures, also called kachina dolls, were typically carved from cottonwood root by the Hopi people to instruct young girls and new brides about katsinas, the immortal beings that bring rain, control the forces of nature, and act as messengers between humans and the spirit world. The term also refers to the kachina dancers, masked members of the tribe who dress up as kachinas for religious ceremonies, and kachina dolls, wooden figures representing kachinas which are given as gifts to children. Hopi people live primarily on three mesas in northeastern Arizona almost 70 miles from Flagstaff. Most kachina dolls originated in the late 19th century and have changed in style over time. 

There are more than 400 different kachinas in Hopi and Pueblo culture. The local pantheon of kachinas varies in each pueblo community; there may be kachinas for the sun, stars, thunderstorms, wind, corn, insects, and many other concepts. Kachinas are understood as having humanlike relationships; they may have uncles, sisters, and grandmothers, and may marry and have children. Although not worshipped, each is viewed as a powerful being who, if given veneration and respect, can use his particular power for human good, bringing rainfall, healing, fertility, or protection, for example. 

Dr. Kemp is a resident of Julian, and is a retired clinical professor at the University of California, San Diego. He became fascinated with the Native American culture after moving to the southwest from the east coast. “I found a wealth of cultures only a day or two drive from San Diego,” he said.

Dr. Kemp will bring some of the kachina dolls, as well as some pottery, to the event at the RSF Historical Society.

The event will take place on October 25, from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Seating is limited. Advance tickets required: members, $15, non-members, $20. RSVP to Sharon Alix, Tuesdays through Fridays, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., at 858-756-9291, or email [email protected]

The Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society is located at 6036 La Flecha in Rancho Santa Fe. The mission of the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society is 7o collect, preserve, research and interpret the documents, photos and artifacts that connect us to Rancho Santa Fe and its past. The opportunity to learn more about the history of this special village is offered through exhibitions, historic sites, the archives, special events, educational programs and publications.

The RSF Historical Society is housed in La Flecha house, one of master architect Lillian Rice’s first designs. La Flecha House was given Landmark #1 status and a plaque was unveiled celebrating the designation. The house was built in 1923 and now houses artifacts, documents, photographs, and furniture all donated to the Society mostly from the Reitz Family Trust. RSFHS provide educational tours and lectures to students of all ages; offer our archives to researchers; and provide expertise and advice on the preservation of historic homes. La Flecha was generously donated to the Society by E.L. Bud Reitz and Margarita Reitz.


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