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Holy Road: Native cultural icon Hartman Lomawaima dies at 58

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TUCSON, Ariz. - Born of humble origin in Arizona's Second Mesa Hopi village of Sipaulovi, Hartman H. Lomawaima was equally comfortable with members of his Hongwungwa/Bear Clan or the world of elite academics as the first American Indian to lead the 115-year-old Arizona State Museum. He was lost to this world July 8 in Tucson following an 11-month battle with colon cancer.

Lomawaima, raised by his mother and grandparents, was a man of intelligence and humor with a deep commitment as a national voice for indigenous peoples, preserving the history of Natives in the United States and redefining how museums represent American Indian culture. As a youngster with Hopi as his first language, he toured the country with his grandparents selling art and jewelry and developing compassion for his fellow beings, an aspect of his personality - along with a very dry sense of humor - that served him well in later years.

He began his life of learning at Winslow (Ariz.) High School before graduating from Northern Arizona University and moving on to graduate research in anthropology and Indian studies at Stanford and Harvard universities. He obtained his Ed.M. degree from Harvard in 1972 with postgraduate work at Stanford from 1972 - 78.

Lomawaima was introduced to museum work at the University of California Hearst Museum of Anthropology in Berkeley, where he was employed from 1980 - 88 before relocating and dedicating his professional life to the Arizona State Museum, the largest anthropology museum in the Southwest. He served ASM as associate director from 1994 - 2002, when he was named museum director. He was also a professor of American Indian studies at the University of Arizona.

At the museum, he helped create the Pottery Project, the world's largest collection of Southwest Indian pottery - the most comprehensively documented collection anywhere on the globe - and electronically accessible via the museum's prototype project, a virtual vault.

His accomplishments were many, including serving on the boards of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, the American Association of Museums and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He was also on the national steering committee to develop an American Indian Museums Association.

Always active in tribal affairs, he was past president of The Hopi Foundation and a trustee of the Hopi Education Endowment Fund. His most recent scholarly publications included contributions to ''The Encyclopedia of North American Indians'' and ''The Encyclopedia of American History.'' He also served as principal consultant for the documentary film, ''Coming to Light: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indian.''

Lomawaima is survived by his wife, K. Tsianina Lomawaima. Donations may be made to the Arizona State Museum, Hope Education Endowment Fund, or the National Trust for Historic Preservation.