Echoes of Childhood in an Emry Kopta Photo

Starlie Polacca and Elsie Lomayesva-Polacca hold two of their children in an Emry Kopta photo. | Museum of Northern Arizona

In the November issue of Arizona Highways, we featured photos by Emry Kopta, an early 20th century sculptor and photographer whose primary subject was the Hopi people. As we noted in the issue, most of the photos, which we licensed from the Museum of Northern Arizona, didn't include much information about their subjects. We asked our readers to contact us if they recognized anyone in the photos.

As it turns out, the young couple in this photo are the parents of Angelita Thompson and Maxine Morris, who got in touch with us through Thompson's granddaughter. Their reaction to seeing the photo in Arizona Highways? "Wow! We've never seen our parents this young!"

We asked Angelita and Maxine a few questions about the photo, their parents and their lives since then. Their father, Starlie Polacca, and mother, Elsie Lomayesva-Polacca, had 14 children, two of whom are pictured here. The women say they're not sure which of their siblings these are, but they're definitely older siblings. As Angelita and Maxine were born in the late 1930s, this photo must have been made much earlier.

Both parents were born on Hopi Tribe land and lived there until their late 40s. Starlie was a rancher, while Elsie was a housewife. Later, the family relocated to Parker, along the Colorado River; as Angelita and Maxine put it: "The Mohave people were fighting for their water rights against the U.S. government, and their enrollment number needed to be increased in order for them to keep their land. Our parents relocated, and we all became enrolled tribal members in the Colorado River Indian Tribes."

Starlie died in a tractor accident when Angelita and Maxine were young, while Elsie lived to be 97 years old. Of the 14 siblings, Angelita and Maxine are two of the three still living; the other, Anthony Polacca, lives in Kansas.

We so appreciate Angelita and Maxine taking the time to share their family's history with us!


This is an absolute treasure. This not only gives history but the beautiful faces of the Hopi people. I am very happy to have come across this article and been able to see it.

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