I didnt know
it when I asked Aneelik to make the cribbage board from a
walrus tusk that this was to be the beginning of a rather
large collection of Native American arts and crafts. The year
was 1949 on the small island called Padloping located off
the Northeast coast of Baffin island just north of the Arctic
Circle. At the time I had it made it was to be purely utilitarian;
it was needed so that I and my fellow airmen would have some
way to help spend the off-duty time at this far north weather
outpost. Besides, it looked nicer than the one in the USO
Then in 1953 while
strolling the banks of the Seine in Paris my wife-to-be Jo
and I decided, for no good reason except to buy memories,
that we would purchase the two small old Folies Bergére
posters by Lautrec that had been trimmed down and framed.
Eleven short years
had gone by and in 1964 while strolling around Scottsdale,
Arizona one Saturday afternoon we entered Buck Saunders Trading
Post and Art Gallery. Little did we know how that one small
deviation would change a part of our lives forever. We saw
Andy Tsinnijinnies Six Horsemen and Jo thought
that it would really go nicely with the color scheme in the
On hanging it on
the wall over one of the lounges it was immediately apparent
that the other wall looked terribly bleak and needed something
to match. Through another dealer Andy was contacted, the deal
struck and Squaw Dance sealed our fate. You see,
by then we had gone back to the Saunders and had also
put down a deposit on DeGrazias Covered Wagon.
However, how well I remember Tsinajinnie driving up to our
door to deliver his painting, coolant dripping from his well
dented radiator and with a shrug of his shoulders, Hit
a cow on the reservation was his only response to my
raised eyebrow. (Later, learning of the Navajo love for straight-faced
humor I often wondered if that was really the truth).
Through the Saunders
tutelage we now added pieces to cover other blanks spaces
on the walls and then another mistake was made. We found the
Heard Museum and their annual Native American Arts and Crafts
exhibit. Mrs. Buxton became a very active member of the Heard
Museum Guild and through these two sources we met many of
the artists and crafts persons and occasionally would have
them create a piece especially for us. Very rarely did we
ever suggest the topic or style. That was left up to the artist.
It was also through
the Saunders that quite a few more pieces of DeGrazias
work was added to the collection. Buck Saunders had been DeGrazias
sponsor in the late 1950s and 60s and both as
an art dealer and aficionado of his style was probably the
primary reason for that artists success.
Someone invited us
to join a group known as the Friends of Mexican Art. We did
and became quite active with them and it was because of this
that there are quite a few pieces, almost all very simple crafts,
of Mexican and South American extraction.
manner of acquisition could be rather interesting. It was not
at all unusual when I was teaching a class at Gateway Community
College to become aware that my students kept glancing out the
classroom door. When the class was over I would find one of
several of the Maricopa potters patiently standing outside the
door with their latest creation wrapped in newspaper hoping
that perhaps I would weaken and purchase it, which I usually
We had also became
good friends with some of the young artists and quite often
would acquire a piece even though its quality was at best dubious,
only to give them incentive to keep going and to try harder.
Thus there is quite a bit of the collection that would probably
not be of any interest to most art aficionados.
We had become quite
good friends with Fannie Etsitty a Navajo lady who was the initial
manager of the Navajo Arts and Crafts Shop in Window Rock. When
she would bring items to the various Native American events
here in the valley such as the Heard Museum Fair or Oodham
Tash in Casa Grande Mrs. Buxton would often be found behind
the counter selling right along with Mrs. Etsitty and her sister
Midge Aragon. Because of this we had acquired a rather large
collection of jewelry and other silver artifacts but I decided
that this would best be displayed in a larger more formal institution
and all of those items were donated to the Buffalo Bill Museum
in Cody, Wyoming
By 1986 it was becoming
apparent from the selection of items purchased that Mrs. Buxton
was becoming more and more unstable and in 1988 all purchasing
ceased. Shortly thereafter it became necessary to sell our home
and the decision was made, with the schools approval,
to donate the collection to the college.
from the loss of my wife and companion, in 1997 I went to Cody
to view the display of our items there and once again started
in collecting other items of interest. However, now the aim
was primarily in the area of crafts.
Among these items
was a beautiful beaded buffalo skull by Tim Audiss. This narrative
would not be complete without mention that several different
individuals have seen a spirit image floating near this item.
The description of its dress could easily be believed to be
that of Jos favorite. . . .
The last major items
added to the collection were in 1999 and 2000 on trips to Canada
and Alaska. Almost all of Innuit origin - mostly walrus tusk.
One was a cribbage board.
. . . . and who was
it who wrote of life going full circle . . . .
Warren F. Buxton July 2001