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Leading Native American architect dies

Dennis Numkena an architect and artist who paved the way for other Native designers, died 11 April after he was struck by a car in Phoenix. He was 68.

Inspired to become an architect after visiting the Guggenheim Museum, Numkena, earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Arizona State University in 1970. He later formed Numkena and Associates, the first Native-American owned architectural firm in the United States. His award-winning buildings include the Anasazi Resort Condominiums in Phoenix, the former Yavapai Apache Cultural Center in Camp Verde, the Pyramid Lake Museum in Nevada, and the planned American Indian Veterans Memorial in Phoenix. His designs drew upon the rich architectural history of the indigenous peoples of the Southwest, especially that of the Anasazi, ancestors of the Hopi, but reinterpreted the language for a modern response.

Numkena’s artwork is featured in private and corporate collections all over the world, including Arizona’s Heard Museum. Numkena also designed stage sets and costumes for Arizona State University’s Lyric Opera Company, notably the national television broadcast of Mozart’s Magic Flute in 1982. In addition to his theater designs, Numkena designed the stage and murals for Pope John Paul II’s historic 1987 visit with Native Americans in Phoenix.

Numkena received the Kent C. Ware Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008 and the Arizona Indian Living Treasure Award in 2002.

His survivors include a daughter and son and a brother.

A private funeral will take place in his home village of Moencopi, on the Hopi Indian Reservation. A memorial service will be held at a date to be determined.

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