Allan Houser: Sculptor & Santa Fean

Allan Houser (1914–1994) working in his design studio in 1991 on the clay original for the bronze “Warm Springs Apache” photo credit: Lee Marmon

Allan Houser is considered one of the most important Native American artists of the 20th century. His work is displayed in collections throughout the southwest. In the east Houser’s work can be found at the National Museum of American Art and the Museum of Indian Art in Washington, D.C. In Japan his sculptures are featured at the Japanese Royal Collection in Tokyo. Houser was a member of the Chiricahua Apache tribe who moved to Santa Fe in 1934.

Chiricahua Apache Tribe

According to family history, Allan C. Haozous was born in Oklahoma in 1914 to Sam and Blossom Haozous who were members of the Chiricahua Apache tribe. Allan’s father fought with Geronimo and the Warm Springs Chiricahuas in defense of their native land in 1886. They eventually surrendered to the U.S. Army in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. In 1897 Haozous and other surviving members of the tribe were captured. They were imprisoned at Fort Sill, Oklahoma for the next 23 years. When they were freed a majority of the tribe returned to New Mexico to join the Mescalero Apache reservation. Sam and Blossom Haozous chose to stay in Oklahoma and that’s where their son Allan was born in 1914.

Santa Fe Indian School

At an early age their son showed an interest in emulating images that he saw in magazines and books and soon became adept at creating his own art forms. In 1934 his parents enrolled him in the Painting School at the Santa Fe Indian School. It was there that he became a protégé of Dorothy Dunn, the school’s most prominent teacher. Five years later exhibits of his work traveled from San Francisco to Washington D.C, and then Chicago.

Fedencía Anna Marie Chávez y Gallegos

Around that time he met and married Fedencía Anna Marie Chávez y Gallegos who was from the Chama Valley. A few years later they moved with three of their five sons to Los Angeles where Haozous sought employment during World War II. The family returned to Santa Fe in 1962 when Haozous was invited to join the faculty of the newly created Institute of American Indian Arts. It was during this time that the family changed their name to Houser, as Anna Marie said, “No one could pronounce our surname so we thought it better to change it but then people thought we were German.”

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