Who Was The Late We:wa? Today's Google Doodle Celebrates Artist For Native American Heritage Month

The Google Doodle shines a light on important, but sometimes lesser-known people whose influence has made a great change in the world. In light of Native American Heritage Month, the first doodle in November is in honor of the late We:wa.

The potter, mediator, leader and artist will be referred to in this article as the late We:wa, due to guidance from the Zuni tribe, which discourages those who have died to be discussed in the present tense.

The doodle was drawn by Zuni Pueblo artist Mallery Quetawki, who said she was "honored" to draw someone who is such a strong representation of her people.

Who Was The Late We:wa?

The late We:wa was born in around 1849 in Zuni Pueblo, which is an indigenous community in the land now known as New Mexico.

They were born of the Donashi:kwi and Bit'chi:kwe, which are the Badger clan and Dogwood clan.

Though beginning studies as other boys in the Zuni tribe, the late We:wa was recognized as being a Łamana, which is a third gender within the tribe which sees those who are male-bodied taking part in activities which are culturally performed by both men and women, such as weaving, hunting, crafts and pottery.

As a result, they were trained in these roles instead, and began to wear clothes usually ascribed to women.

When American settlers began to arrive, the late We:wa was one of the first Zuni members to sell their creations to non-indigenous people, and create relationships with those outside of the community.

This has helped Zuni crafts, including weaving and pottery, to be included in the sphere of fine arts and has ensured the community is represented.

They were hired by anthropologists James and Matilda Stevenson to make pottery, much of which is now exhibited at the National Museum in Washington D.C.

They also helped to wash clothes for their community and non-indigenous people alike, helping them become well-liked and respected in and outside the Zuni community.

They spent a great deal of time with anthropologists the Stevensons, and even joined them on a trip to Washington D.C. to discuss cultural exchange with leaders, having learned English to act as an ambassador and help tribal leaders.

The late We:wa used this visit, in 1885, to call on officials to protect Zuni lands from settlers.

Outside of their career, they were also married and, with their husband, adopted multiple children, and was a spiritual leader due to their devout religious beliefs within the Zuni culture.

They died in 1896, at the age of 47, but had a long-standing cultural impact on the Zuni community, which is still 10,000-strong.

Quetawki said of the doodle: "I hope that people become aware of our traditional customs and the fact that they are very much in practice currently. Our ancient ways of life are still here and we can all learn from one another.

"We:wa was a male individual who lived as a woman. He is an ancestor of ours whom we think so dearly. If we could all be caring and empathetic to one another we can all live We:wa's legacy."

We-wa
We-Wa, a Zuni man dressed as a woman, weaving a belt on a waist loom with reed heddle, 1879. Corbis/Getty Images