Duane Makitma was studying education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, when a dean suggested he switch his major to art. “ I thought it would be a hobby.” Growing up in tiny towns in Arizona under the tutelage of his Hopi and Laguna relatives, Maktima learned how to carve and paint, but these artworks were referred to as “blessings” and not art. The Dean, having seen Duane’s work was insistent. When Maktima first laid eyes on the jewelry in the jewelry lab, he says, “It was like my whole life flashed before my eyes, I was hooked.”
It took a decade for Maktima to complete his degree. He left college to work as a resident artist at the nearby Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. At only 19 years old he was given a studio and stipend to make jewelry which was snapped up by visitors from around the world. Eventually he embarked on a personal retreat from the pressure and spent 3 years at Laguna Pueblo. Maktima worked there as a survey helper and everyday he walked the country from Second Mesa to Black Mesa. During these long walks he came to deeply appreciate his heritage and decided to complete his education.
When he did return to university, it was an exciting time for Native American artists. His research into African and Indian art led him create spiritual based pieces from beads, shell work mosaics, motifs from Hopi pottery, hollow silver tubes, gold , lapis, turquoise , and red coral. In 1982, Maktima, received a second-ever fellowship from the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts. He moved to Sante Fe a year later.
An active community leader, he has influenced many young people to pursue a career in art. His brooches, buckles, and other exquisite jewelry have been featured in some of the best Native American galleries. In 1990, Northern Arizona University honored the artist with its 2000 Distinguished Alumni Artist Award, Distinguished Achievement Award, and member of the President’s Circle. Maktima credits his achievements to his education and his family. “I can hear grandpa saying, ‘You have really learned something. You’ve really excelled with what God gave you.’ ”
According to his grandfather, the name “Maktima” means “searching for eagles.”