Adee Dodge
The Artist Adee Dodge, a full-blooded Navajo Indian was the son of Chief Dodge who was the last Chief of the Navajo Nation. Adee graduated from the University of New Mexico as an anthropology major, and from Columbia University with a Masters in comparative linguistics and anthropology. Adee served four years in the South Pacific combat zone flying P-38's. While recovering from war wounds he started sketching the history of the Navajo people. In 1954, without any previous training , he began to actively paint and is today recognized as one of the foremost Indian artists - painting in colors and symbols representative of Navajo ancient tribal history. His innate sense of color and form in flowing lines and exquisite balance have tremendous appeal.
All his work had a religious or historic meaning and is in agreement with Navajo beliefs. Adee was one of the few remaining Indians versed in the sacred tribal chants that are passed down through the generations in the form of stories and sand paintings. His pictures depict navajo history and beliefs by swirls, horses, maidens and dancers. Each color , each dot, and each feather is symbolic. Adee saw his paintings as a way to tell and preserve the Navajo Religion. Because he was afraid the significance of his art work might be lost, he primarily sold his paintings to those who he felt would appreciate the importance of his artwork. Adee lived from 1912 to 1993. Adee paintings have been in the Arizona Highways magazine, Smithsonian Institute, as murals in various buildings and in private collections throughout the Southwest.
 

The Paintings

Adee Dodge’s trademark which appears on all his paintings, is the roll-of-hair symbol of the Navajo people. Below this he would sign his name - Adee. Along side of this he would have the last two digits of the year he painted the artwork. In each painting two birds are shown: The square shouldered, a bluebird, and the swept back wing, a swallow. In ancient Navajo history, these two birds symbolized the division of seagoing people (to the East) and the swallow people ( to the West).His most common paintings are on a 16 x 24 mat board with pastel colors All of the symbols on the front of the paintings are carefully referenced by the individual Navajo chants on the back of the painting.
 

Life History

Adee was born on June 17, 1912 at Sonsela, 45 miles north of Window Rock, Arizona. His father's name was Bitanny Dodge. His grandfather was Chee Dodge. Adee's mother was the sister of Thomas Dodge. Adee had one brother, Bitanny Chee Begay, who was two years younger than he.

Adee was raised as a Catholic. He says his grandfather was a very devout Catholic having taken on this religion while in Fort Sumner. All of Adee's aunts and uncles were raised in the Catholic faith.
He attended school as a youngster at Fort Defiance, going to High School in Chilocco, Oklahoma. Adee then went to Bacone Junior College near Muskogee, Oklahoma. This was a private Baptist College and Adee felt that the President of that College singled him out since he, Adee, was a Catholic. At each Sunday service the College President, one Dr. Weeks, seemed to preach directly at Adee, trying to persuade him to come over to the Baptist Religion.

During this time, Adee found a small Catholic Parrish close to the Bacone College campus and would sometimes attend Mass there. He said he felt more comfortable with the Catholic services. He states of the Catholics, "the Catholics... they are just like Navajos or like Pueblos, you know. they are doing something holy but you can’t understand what they are doing."

Dr Weeks never managed to convert Adee. Adee says, "I kept telling them, I’m a Catholic. I was a Catholic, of course, I was never serious about any religion on earth. Grandfather was baptized. I don’t remember if I was baptized. Anyway, I went to a Baptist College as a Catholic. I came out as a Catholic, shook hands with everybody as a Catholic."

Adee was familiar with the Mormon Religion and claimed to have a Book of Mormon in his possession. He stated that he had read it. However, Adee was suspicious of the Mormons, saying that they had sided with the Hopi over some disputed land.

After graduating from Bacone College Adee went to the University of New Mexico for two years. He received a scholarship to Columbia University where he obtained a Masters Degree.


During his years at Columbia, Adee commuted back to the reservation during the summer where he held classes at Fort Defiance for medical interpreters and nurses school. Adee obtained a PHD in Anthropology, specializing in Comparative Linguistics. He obtained this degree while teaching in the medical school at Fort Defiance. During this time he also worked with Gladys Amanda Reichard on the Navajo Chant System. She subsequently published a book entitled "Navajo Religion." This book was published while Adee was away in the armed services during World War II. Reichard died mysteriously before Adee returned from military duty.

Although Adee had many interesting stories about his service years, most of them could be classed as "war stories." He has told of being a Navajo "code" talker, a test pilot, and a spotter for General Macarthur in the South Pacific.

As far as can be determined, Adee spent the most of his service years in the Midwestern Pprocurment District stationed out of Wright-Patterson Field in Dayton, Ohio. He had that rank of First Lieutenant.

Adee married while in the service but this first marriage ended in divorce. There were no children.
He was in the service for a period of five years.

After being discharged from the armed forces, Adee returned to the University of New Mexico to obtain a law degree. He then worked out of Window Rock for the public welfare department of the University of New Mexico in connection with the New Mexico Governor's office.

While attending law school in Albequrque Adee met a woman named Maria Pillsbury. She was married at the time to an artist. It was an unhappy marriage. Adee tried to counsel with Mr. Pillsbury but to no avail. The marriage eventually ended.

By this time Adee's brother had married and had five children, John, Paul, Jimmy, Thomas, and Nnanabah. His sister-in-law was confined to a T.B. Sanitarium in Colorado and Adee's brother was not well. Bitanny Chee Begay was a victim of diabetes and eventually lost a leg through the disease. Caring for the five children was a hardship for him and Adee helped him as much as he could.

When Adee heard of Maria's divorce he returned to Albequrque and married her. They were married in 1950. She was 13 years older than Adee. It was her third marriage and his second. Maria's maiden name was Maria Delubic. She was of polish extraction. Her family was from the Chicago area. She had a child from her first marriage to a man by the name of Ostergrado but the child died. They divorced and she married Mr. Pillsbury in Chicago and they moved to New Mexico where she eventually met Adee Dodge.

Adee and Maria had no natural children but adopted Nanabah, Adee's niece, shortly after their marriage. Nanabah refers to Adee as her father and her daughter Navidad calls him Grandpa and Maria is Grandma.

Adee had intended to continue his work on the chant system and linguistics but his wife bought him a set of colors and he started painting. His first commercial efforts were with textiles. He painted a beautiful taffeta skirt for his wife that was worn by the wife of the Governor of New Mexico at one time.

While living on the reservation near Wheatfield, Arizona, Adee painted; eventually publishing some of his pictures in the Arizona Highways Magazine between the years of 1958 through 1966. There was a feature story done on him in the Arizona Republic in 1960. And he was subsequently commissioned by the Valley National Bank in Sedona, Arizona for a series of murals on display at that location.

In 1960 Adee made a trip to Phoenix with a group of small paintings. He had been given the name of a woman who ran a gallery called "el sombrero" in the Phoenix area. She put his work on display and eventually purchased the series of paintings.

Adee commuted between his home in Wheatfield and Phoenix, selling his paintings. Adee became acquainted with many celebrities such as Howard Hughes and Will Rogers Jr. Some hollywood stars have purchased some of Adee's pictures as well.

The main purpose for Adee's artwork is to retell the Navajo cultural and religious system and keep it alive. He feels that the younger people are not learning the chants and fears that the system will disappear if he does not pass this information on for publication. It is his intent to have a book published of his paintings and the explanation of the symbolism in the paintings to be used as a textbook in the Navajo schools to keep the legends and the cultural and religious system from being lost to the Navajo community.

Around 1977 Adee's eyesight began to fail. He developed a cataract on the left eye and was in need of surgery. At about this same time, Dr. Gerry Hooper and Dr. Richard Melde were introduced to Adee's work and became interested in his project subsequently forming the corporation, Adee Dodge ltd., with him in 1983.

In December of 1977 Adee rented a small house on 32nd street in Phoenix where he stayed during the winter months. The trips back and forth from Phoenix to Wheatfield had become more difficult because of his failing eyesight and his wife complained of the frightening trips back up to the reservation. Also his health was beginning to fail as well as Maria's.

In February of 1978 Nanabah's mother died of tuberculosis. There was some dispute at that time regarding the inheritance that is still going on at this time. In November of 1980 Adee's brother came to live with him in Phoenix. It was not until February of 1982 that Adee finally had his surgery performed at Phoenix Indian Hospital. Ironically, only a few days earlier Maria was hospitalized with a broken hip. .

While Adee recovered from his eye surgery his wife did not fare as well. She was bedridden from that time forth and demanded a great deal of time and care from all the members of the family.
Nanabah and her husband, George Grogan, with Adee's granddaughter Navidad moved into the house with Adee and helped care for Maria. Adee painted and cared for his wife during this time.

Adee's home has always been a "stopping place" for all the relatives in the Dodge family. When they come to Phoenix they always stayed with Adee and he offers them the full hospitality of his house. It became increasingly burdensome with his wife being ill. Then in March of 1983 she was taken off the Indian Service Medical and Hospital aid, making it even more of a financial burden for him.

Although the visiting nurses came to care for his wife on a regular basis, Adee was not satisfied with their treatment of her. He was very attached to his wife and didn't want her to leave him although he knew that death was imminent and he tried to prepare himself for her passing. Adee refused to put Maria in a nursing home, knowing that she would not get the care that he felt she needed

During this time Adee's production of paintings began to decrease because of the time he spent caring for his wife. It finally became almost a full time job and near the end he did not produce any paintings at all. She died on february 27, 1984 at 4:30 am.

Adee is 6'2" and weighs 180 pounds. He appears to be a gruff, uneducated "Indian" but is really an extremely bright man, well educated, well traveled. His knowledge of world geography and linguistics is superb. The tenderness with which he treated his wife in her final days is extremely touching.


Brief Genealogy of Adee Dodge

Chee Dodge was the son of a Mexican interpreter for the U.S. Army, his name was Henry Dodge. (Adee states his greatgrandfather was a Colonel in the army and that his grandmother's name was Zani. This information about Adee's ancestors in these paragraphs was obtained from a book entitled "Annie Wauneka, the story of an American Indian," by Mary Carroll Nelson.)


Henry Dodge died when Chee was a year old. He was left by his mother in the care of an aunt while she went to the Hopi tribe for help. She never returned. Chee was passed around from family to family and finally was abandoned at the age of four while the Navajos were on the run and hiding from the U.S. Army.

He was found by a young girl named Shadi. Shadi was only eight years old. She took him to her grandfather and the three of them wandered until being picked up by the soldiers, arrested and sent to fort Sumner with the rest of the Navajos. While in Fort Sumner, Chee learned to speak English.

Upon return to the reservation in Arizona, Chee made contact again with his real family. He met an aunt while tending sheep and she was married to a white man and living at Fort Defiance.
Chee joined her there and because he spoke English became employed at the supply room by his uncle.

Chee attended school, worked, saved his money and became a fairly wealthy man. Chee married at this time but the marriage was unsatisfactory and he divorced his first wife Navajo style by putting her and all of her belongings out of the house. He eventually became acquainted with Shadi's two daughters and sought the hand of the older of the sisters, Nanabah. As was common practice at the time, since he was interested in marrying the older girl the bargain was struck to take both sisters. The sister had a son, Tom. Nanabah had a son, Ben, and also a daughter, Mary.

While Nanabah and her sister were away from Chee for a period of two years, Chee took a third wife, a distant cousin of Nanabah's, named k'eehabah. She had a daughter, Annie.

These are Adee's aunts and uncles. Annie Dodge married a man she met during her school days in Albequrque named George Wauneka. Annie Wauneka became the first woman on the Navajo Tribal Council and is very prominent in the Navajo nation.

Ben dodge died as a young man and Mary was married to a man called Carl Peshlakai. (Mary Dodge Peshlakai died in February of 1981.)

Thomas Dodge became the first Navajo to receive a law degree. He attended Harvard Law School. Both he and his younger sister Annie Wauneka were very outstanding in the Navajo community.

 
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Updated: July 1, 2007
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