Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chess Knight Sterling Silver Bolo

Here is the highly anticipated shiny sterling silver Paladin knight I first wrote about in this blog on Sunday, May 9, 2010. It was released from the buffer's rugged hands this afternoon. Navajo Eloise Kee was the master silversmith.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Charm of Acoma Pottery

I usually turn a blind eye to pottery as I just glide by inhibited by tunnel vision, but ready to fixate on prize-worthy Native American jewelry. Last weekend was different, I was attracted to the pottery matrons of Acoma Pueblo who were showing their pottery shard necklaces at the Native Treasure Art show in Santa Fe. I bought several of the necklaces but in the process of exchange they charmed me into what I now fear will be a new life of unquenchable lust for Acoma pottery created from local Earthen clay by the very same primitive and unaltered methods of their ancestors. The great photographic artist Edward Curtis must have felt moved in a similar way in his travels to visit the Acoma women. I wish I could express the same in masterful picture as he did more than a century ago.

At the Old Well of Acoma

Northwestern University Library, Edward S. Curtis's 'The North American Indian': the Photographic Images, 2001.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Conspicuous Jewelry by Edward S. Curtis

The North American Indian is the 20 volume culmination of Edward Sheriff Curtis' (1868-1952) epic life work. It features 2,200 photogravures. Curtis cast the American Indian in stylized romantic fashion which set the stereotypes and popular notions of his day in America. His entire monolithic portfolio started in the 1890's and continued over 30 years includes more than 40,000 images. The photographs are generally praised as art works of beauty and for technical expertise, but his work has been roundly criticized for decades especially by ethnologists, historians, and other serious academics. His subjects were frequently outfitted with inaccurate or mingled tribal clothing and idealized accouterments. Anachronistic elements were strictly avoided. These embellishments and historical distortions give the impression of past days of Native American glory when in fact, the American Indian of that era was very often defeated, marginalized, and left to live in squalor with loss of freedom and dignity.

Note how the Zuni girl below is poised to show her excessive jewelry in overt exaggeration.

Northwestern University Library, Edward S. Curtis's 'The North American Indian': the Photographic Images, 2001.

As a connoisseur of ethnic jewelry, I can appreciate the body adornments and physical beauty of his Zuni subject, but it does leave me uncomfortable as an overall false and staged portrayal. In contrast, look below at his sensitive 1905 rendition of the heavily wrinkled Apache Geronimo. It's a classic portrait of this legendary man near the end of his seemingly impossible life. I chose the image to illustrate one of Edward Sheriff's Curitis' many gifts of legacy to posterity. I think it is beyond criticism.

Northwestern University Library, Edward S. Curtis's 'The North American Indian': the Photographic Images, 2001.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Marilyn Ray, Potter of Acoma

Marilyn Ray is an acclaimed pottery maker from the Pueblo of Acoma who specializes in storyteller figurines. I was happy to see that her clay creations extend into the realm of wearable art. The reversible pendant pictured above is created from Acoma clay and is processed in the same way as her elaborate storyteller figurines. I am excited about exploirng this arena of Native American jewelry which is all new to me. Acoma, here I come!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Silversmith's Daughter

This catalog is typical of those distributed in the 1930's. The copying of Indian Jewelry has been problematic for Native Americans for over a century. Today the anxiety and legal actions have if anything increased despite laws designed to help protect the livelihood of Native American artists. Even though the cover image is deceptive, I have to give the Arrow Novelty Co. some minor credit for honestly calling their machine manufactured jewelry, "Indian Design." The introduction to this catalogue reads:

Coin Silver Jewelry

We present this catalogue to our customers in the hope it will help stimulate the sale of this popular line of Indian design Silver Jewelry, which is strictly American in idea, design and manufacture. It is made of 900 fine silver--the same compositon of metal as used in coining American Silver Dollars.

Most of the jewelry in this wholesale catalogue is sold by the dozen lot. Simple stamped bracelets were marketed to dealers for as little as $6.00 per dozen.

The Silversmith's Daughter picture that graces the brochure is actually printed backward. Her jewelry, unlike that in the catalogue, is authentic Native American. A colorized commerical post of her image is available for sale through

Silversmith’s Daughter January 1920 by JR Willis, Library of Congress, Photo Lot 59, LOC, Small Mounts, Tribe Id, Navaho, People Unid, 1 03275400, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Monday, May 24, 2010

Grandeur of the Artists' Land #1

On researching the late 1880 to 1901 work of my photo forefather Ben Wittick, I came across an image he took of Churchrock on Navajoland. I learned I will need to take a short hike to get into his actual Kodak feet for a similar image. Circumstances did not allow me time today. Instead, I settled for this nearby image just an hour ago.


Ben Wittick's Studio Jewelry & Pottery

I am cognizant of the historical importance of Edward Sheriff Curtis' voluminous body of work and the contributions of other pioneering frontier photographers like Adam Clark Vorman, John Grabill, and Camillus "Buck” Sidney Fly. Nonetheless, I think of Ben Wittick (1845-1903) as the finest of all the early photographers whose work documented Western Native Americans widely perceived as inexorably disappearing from the landscape under the relentless expansion of a new dominant American culture. Ben Wittick had a photography studio in Gallup, New Mexico in the late 1880's which he later moved as his last studio operation 15 miles East to Ft. Wingate. Much of his work was done in the studio where he used props liberally. These included, painted backgrounds, regional plants, guns, pottery, and jewelry especially concho belts and naja necklaces. The image here is of the Navajo Woman, Old Washie (Credit Ben Wittick Collection Laboratory of Anthropology, Inc. Santa Fe, New Mexico). Ben Wittick had a special affinity for the Hopi Indians. He was the first known photographer to take images of the Hopi snake dances. He died in 1903 from a rattlesnake bite while collecting rattlesnakes for his Hopi friends. Many Americans do not know the Ben Wittick name, but most will recognize one of his most famous images taken in 1887, Geronimo!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Native Treasures: Indian Arts Festival 2010

photo by Carol Franco
Today Sandy and I experienced the joy of attending Santa Fe's only museum-quality Indian Arts Festival. More than 180 of the best in the Native American Art world were gathered in the comfort of the Santa Fe Convention Center. The work was simply stellar throughout the exhibit room. It would have taken at least a couple of hundred thousand dollars to satisfy my inventory acquisition desire. I had to settle for much less, but the satisfaction of meeting new artists and seeing new creations kept things in balance. This show was the 6th since inception. The show benefits the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture; 25% of each sale goes to the Museum’s programs. I had a particular focus on the pottery-jewelry connection and I will have more to write on the subject, but for now I'd like to bring reader's attention to the work of Laguna Pueblo silversmith Mark Stevens. He honors the art of the past through his contemporary jewelry creations. He collects local Anasazi pottery shards which he then uses to create replica silver jewelry pieces before returning the shards to their place of ancient rest.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Nugget Gallery - Gallup, New Mexico

Gallup, New Mexico is the undisputed trading hub of the Native American Arts Industry. In our small city of less than 25,000 residents Native American jewelry stores are so plentiful they can be counted by the dozen. The Nugget Gallery is one that stands apart in distinction and place a couple of miles off the beaten path of heavily store lined Old Route 66. To find the Nugget Gallery go South on 2nd street until you see the store sign on the right of the road. The store is densely packed with Native American treasures of all sorts. Whenever I visit I'm delightfully reminded of an 1880 interior image of Jakes Gold's legendary Old Curio Shop in Santa Fe, N.M. The Nugget Gallery has a scattered array of vintage and new Native American Jewelry, a wide selection of old and new pottery, Pendleton blankets, historic Native American clothing, a fabulous collection of Zuni and Hopi Kachinas, and much more to discover. The owners know their business and the artists very well. And they know how to coddle the store dog who loves resting on his own Chief Joseph Pendleton blankets.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Simple & Elegantly Beautiful Squash Blossom Necklace

I found the elegant beauty of this old pawn necklace of sterling silver and mother of pearl enticing and irresistible. I could not find any name connection with the hallmark HBC and I have no idea of the era in which it was hand forged and set with the dazzling white gift of mollusk. This is an unmistakable treasure and appropriate for formal wear in the Southwest, but the appeal is timeless and universal. Price $450.

Cut, Hammer, File

This is an impressive 1915 image by William J. Carpenter of an early Navajo Silversmith at work in his hogan. Click for an enlargement and note his tools, horse tack, hat, blanket, and the coins which were used as a smith's primary source of silver in those days. As I have stood and watched notable modern day silversmiths like Ella Kee and Calvin Begay fashion new designs from silver, I have often thought of this historic reference image and noted that not much has changed in the past 100 years. Sure they have now have good vices, a full anvil, stool and workbench, and steady music from their radios, but it's still mostly cut, hammer, and file by hand in the old fashion Navajo way.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Silversmith Training for Navajo's with Disabilities

This sign tells its own story. The billboard, no longer in place, was located just outside of Gallup. I captured the image in 2008.

Grey Moustache - Photo Not Available

Mr. John Adair, a social anthropologist, wrote that when he asked silversmith Grey Moustache of Sunrise Springs, Arizona for permission to take his photograph, he replied:

"No, I won't let you do that. I don't have any of my turquoise and silver on. People who see it will say, 'Why that Navajo doesn't have anything at all.' I would feel like a chicken with all its feathers plucked out."

Source: The Navajo and Pueblo Silversmiths, Volume 25 in The Civilization of the American Indian Series." © 1944

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Affordable Spurs

I do not often encounter spurs made or enhanced by Native American silversmiths, but I like to keep at least one pair up at all times. The last pair of spurs I had on hand and sadly had to let go were magnificent, blue ribbon, prize winning, sterling silver beauties appraised at $6000 (see blog entry 9/25/2008). These spurs are cheap in comparison, but then again they are made of nickel silver and brass. Navajo Silvermith Lorraine Bahe Livingstone set the yokes of these spurs with 28 turquoise cabochons. Price $249.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fossil Bracelet

This unique bracelet created by the well known Navajo silversmith P.J. Begay is a paleontologist's delight. The 14 teardrop amber (fossilized tree resin) cabochons complement the bracelet's fossiliferous stone centerpiece. Getting a stone to show a fossil creature is a challenge because of the time demands and high material wastage in finding a satisfactory slice to reveal the prehistoric contents in a display worthy manner and shape. This bracelet has bezels set on an open frame created from 3 adjoined strands of heavy gauge half dome sterling silver wire. A bonus feature is the clearly visible sawdust behind the amber cabochons-click on image for more detail. Sawdust has been used for the backing of stones since the inception of the bezel holder. The price tag on this amazingly unique piece is $499. Be discreet in wearing around your geology friends for they will surely covet your rare find.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cripple Creek Ribbon Turquoise

Cripple Creek in Teller, Colorado, like many other mines in the Southwest, is more commonly associated with gold fortune than turquoise yield. Turquoise is simply a byproduct of gold digging operations. Turquoise is normally found in veins in surrounding rock matrix in the way the turquoise above is shown imbeded in the cabochon. Ribbon turquoise, also called boulder turquoise, is very common. Rarely, one will find a fleck of gold in a piece, but I've not yet had that little lottery pleasure. Nonetheless, I think ribbon turquoise makes a beautiful gem piece. Oscar Alexsius has done a great job of showcasing this prize worthy cabochon in a traditional Navajo sterling silver bracelet. Price tag $389.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Original Trading Post

click for enlargement

I have always been visually intrigued with the colorful facade of this store because it contrasts so sharply with the surrounding adobes of the Santa Fe Plaza area, and I have passed by many times over the years believing it to be little more than a common souvenir shop of no interest to me. That was before my discovery of Jonathan Batkin's scholarly book, THE NATIVE AMERICAN CURIO TRADE IN NEW MEXICO. I subsequently realized that for Indian Arts aficionados and dealers, this piece of commercial real estate is hallowed ground. It has changed very little since 1901 when Jake Gold, after his forced banishment, returned to Santa Fe to partner in opening this curio store with his pawn broker friend J.S. Candalerio. For most of the last century it was a must see attraction in Santa Fe for the common tourists and many a famous personality. Today, its charm and history is most often overlooked, and even when mentioned, it is not emphasized in the guidebooks of Santa Fe. The jewelry cases and back wall of the store are still crowded with authentic Native American silver and stone treasures and the postcard rack is full as it has always been. This place is still a must stop for the enlightened and it is worth making a purchase even if only to claim with a wink and a nod, "I got it at Jake Gold's old curio store" in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gold's Free Museum

Photo courtesy of the Jeffrey Kraus Collection, (click for enlargement)
Jake Gold's Old Curiosity Shop (aka Gold's Free Museum) was the first Indian curio business established in Santa Fe. The ramshackle old adobe building with wood carrying burros in front of and or around the corner on Burro Alley made this innovative curio shop on San Francisco street a favorite subject for photographers of the late 19th century. The deliberately cluttered and thick dusted interior of his ancient appearing place was equally alluring to tourists. Jake Gold, a brilliant salesman, cast himself as a man worthy of a souvenir portrait card as a moustached, frilly leather jacketed rugged frontiersman complete with a muzzle-loaded pistol stuck in his braided shash belt. He was equally colorful in discourse, "The tourists want to hear tales, and I am here to administer the same." Jake Gold's hugely successful curio store and pioneering mail order catalogs faded as his legal troubles mounted and his health declined, but his spirit lives on today in a yellow store still with the carreta on the roof just a few doors away and on the same side of the street, the subject of my next blog.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oscar's Bisbee Turquoise Western Buckle

Bisbee turquoise from the Arizona town of the same name has an interesting source history worth Googling for detail specifics. Like so many Navajo silversmiths from Gallup, Oscar Alexius is a veteran of glory rodeo days as a bull rider. He is historically distinguished as one of a group of Gallup silversmiths, which includes Harry Morgan, credited with reviving old-style traditional Navajo Indian jewelry. The Bisbee turquoise cabochon in this fine buckle measure 1 1/2 x 1 3/4 inches. The buckle is 3 1/4 inches horizontally. Price is $359. I hope it finds a place of ownership honor with an Arizona cowboy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Resplendant Broken Arrow Turquoise

This brilliant emerald green cabochon of Broken Arrow Turquoise is beautifully accentuated in an "old style" pawn setting by noted Navajo Silversmith PJ Begay of Gallup. It is one of the most eye-catching pieces of turquoise I have ever personally encountered. Price $379.

Swirls of Colors by Phyllis Coonsis

As Sandy and I strolled happily down the time-honored Native American vendor's sidewalk showcase that is part of the Santa Fe Palace of the Governors this past Saturday, I recognized the distinct jewelry of Phyllis Coonis, a Zuni artisan of note. It was then that I looked up and greeted her. Of the several dozen artists selling their work, she was the only one I recognized and that was of course through her signature jewelry. Zuni is about 4 hours away from Santa Fe by straight drive. Gallup a little less so it's not often I find one of our regional artists vending on the Plaza. This historic portal area is a must if you go to the Santa Fe. The Palace of the Governors was built in 1610 and holds the distinction of being the oldest continually occupied public building in the United States. Most of the Native American jewelry offered on the covered sidewalk leans on the souvenir quality side, but some of it, like anything by Phyllis is heirloom worthy. Phyllis's business card reads in part: Swirl of Colors, Zuni Jewelry by Phyllis Coonsis. The backside is imprinted: "Sterling Silver Jewelry set with the following Stones and Shells: Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, Malachite, Black Pen Shel, Mother of Pearl, Gold Lip Mother of Pearl, Purple, Red & Orange Spiney Oyster, Pink Mussel Shell, Gaspeite, Jet, White Clam, Abalone, & Wild Horse." Earrings pictured are $139.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Paladin Knight

In 1957 CBS launched one of the most successful TV Westerns of all time, Have Gun Will Travel, starring Richard Boone as Paladin. He was a supremely intelligent and highly moral gunfighter who basked in refined luxury and the finest raiments at the San Francisco Carlton Hotel when he was not traveling about as a glorious black-clad knight-errant throughout the American West in the decade following the Civil War. Paladin was a ployglot, a wine judge, an epicurean, opera buff, piano player, chess master, and a scholar well versed in literature and history. He often quoted great authors like Homer, Shakespeare, Plato, and Keats. Women reflexively swooned in his presence. He was a graduate of West Point and a celebrated Union officer in the Civil War. It seems he had it all. In short, he was mortal, but a super-hero.

I've always thought it would be nice to have a knight bolo similar to the one that decorated the outside of Paladin's black holster. So getting back to Indian Jewelry, I asked Sandy to sculpt a rough prototype. Today I took it in for the Navajo silversmith to take over and start carving in wax so it can be poured in sterling silver. I can't wait for the first one to strap on my neck. I might even wait for the first formal wearing on my next adventure back to the epicenter of cowboy cool country, e.g. Santa Fe, NM.

New Mexico Tourist Trap?

click for enlargement

It is not uncommon for many fine citizens of the Southwest to refer to places like the Continental Divide Indian Market (20 miles East of Gallup) as a tourist trap, but then again many Italians categorize the Leaning Tower of Pisa also as a tourist trap. Merchandising roadside tourist attractions like the Indian Market offer not only much needed highway breaks, but also some really cheap buying, mostly of the souvenir variety. The establishment above has all sort things, mostly attractive to the young generations, ice cream bars, t-shirts, key chains, firecrackers, cheap imported "Indian-like" jewelry, playing cards, imported "Indian blankets", cups, bumper stickers, toy bow and arrow sets, Indian head feathers, cap guns, toy rifles, plastic bags of cowboys and Indians, and much more. Although limited, they also have authentic handmade regional Native American jewelry in the showcase, some of it worth passing down to future generations. These places make memorable stops for children and a good restroom break for the whole family. So consider adding some colorful tourist character to your next trip, after all tourism is the world's leading peace time industry.

I purchased the $4.98 bolo tie on my visit at the above "tourist trap" this weekend. It is an obvious import of base metal alloy probably from China and certainly it contrasts with my usual high class gold and silver bolos. Nonetheless, I consider it a treasure finding of sorts and I plan to wear to my next poker game.

By the way, I loved visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I saw it as worthy of it's designation as one of the 7 wonders of the Medieval World. I guess I missed the "tourist trap" part.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Best in Western Wear

La Fonda Hotel at the very terminus of the Old Santa Fe Trail has long been a favorite lodging choice in New Mexico. It vibrates with history and charm and it draws me in on many of my frequent trips to Santa Fe. It's an ideal focal point for any cowboy who wants to get outfitted in high Western fashion. O'Farrell's hattery is just across the street is my number one choice in felt hat, but it does take a fat wad of $100 bills to get a custom fit O'Farrell atop your head; the designs are options are unbeatable. I also love looking over their huge selection of hatbands, many are Native American handcrafted. Across the street within the walls of La Fonda is my favorite belt shop, Tom Taylor. In Gallup you can find many a good buckle, but good leather belts are just not there. But Tom Taylor has it all. They sell well crafted elegant buckles from a number of places, but currently their sole supplier of Native American choices are from the BG Mudd Company located in Gallup. BG Mudd employees Navajo and Zuni artisans who make spectacular pure sterling and inlay buckles. You can see a good overview at their website: If you like to shop the best in Western wear these two places are must-stops in Santa Fe.

Voice of the Earth--A New Deal Art Legacy

This 1932 wall fresco was created by the New Deal Artist
Will Shuster (1863-1969) as part of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of New Mexico. Note the prominence of their squash blossom necklaces. The bottom dangle piece is called a naja derived from the Navajo word " Najahe", meaning cresant. Native American Indian silver based jewelry has permeated this region of the country since the Navajos were introduced to the art in the mid 1800's. I find the history as interesting as the art and I am grateful for its permanence and ongoing evolution of style.

Strolling Santa Fe

Click for enlargement

Sandy and I often travel the 190 miles from Gallup to Santa Fe for rest, recreation, and awe-inspiring gourmet food that's hard to get back home. I also like to get an overview of our regional Native artist's presence in the town, now recognized the world over as a tourist mecca. Today, on our way to the Georgia O'Keeffe museum, I fixated on the jewelry display in this shop window. Most of the work is by Gallup based artists I know. In fact, I see through to Gallup again and again as I gaze through the many store windows and jewelry display cases throughout the plaza of Santa Fe and I am thankful our artists have this fabulous world-class showcase. This evening we hope to follow-up our museum visit by sharing a bowl of popcorn as we watch the 2009 biopic, Georgia O'Keeffe, about her and husband Alfred Steiglitz.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ruddell's Horse

Here's another quality pin/pendant by my Zuni friend Ruddell Laconsello. Actually, he and his wife work together as a team, but I have forgotten their usual division of duties. The stones on this 1 3/8 inch diameter pen/pendant include, turquoise, coral, lapis, Acoma jet, and pipestone all masterfully inlaid into shiny steriling silver. Price $279.

Ruddell Laconsello's Sea Serpent

Kolowissi (Serpent of the Sea), is a benevolent, Zuni mythological character and one Ruddell likes to set in silver. This past weekend, as I just recently wrote in this blog, I met up with him at the pueblo dances in Zuni. The event was unforgettable and part of that was having Ruddell at my side to answer my many questions and alert me to the highlights of the celebration. I did not buy anything from him this weekend, we never looked at his jewelry; instead. I found this pin/pendant at Ray's Trading Company here in Gallup, one of my favorite hangouts and places to buy. I also bought a 2nd piece which I may blog a little later. At one point this weekend as Ruddell and I watched the Zuni Kachinas, I briefly told him of my last Hopi buying trip. He said "Hopi silverwork just blows me away." Wow, what a note of praise considering it comes from one of the best Zuni jewelry artisans of all time. Priceless? Well, no this serpent jewelry pin pendant with all it's mystical appeal comes at cost of only $549.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pueblo Traders in Zuni

I stopped and bought a wholesaler's batch of jewelry the last time I seriously shopped Zuni. If this place is as it was then, it's a good place to buy either retail or wholesale. Most of the Zuni artists travel to Gallup on a regular basis, but it is adventageous to the Pueblo and the local artists for folks to buy there. There is huge demand for outlets for Native American arts. I think the Internet has likely been very beneficial in opening international markets especially with jewelry which can be shipped easily and with economy.

Halona Plaza, Back from Zuni Pueblo, Part 4

This is it, the only place to stay in Zuni. The B&B accessible from the back is real charmer. They offer 5 rooms, each is small but very clean and pleasant. A really nice touch was the pink woolen Pendleton Chief Joseph blanket I found at the foot of my bed. Breakfast made to order was wonderful. The Plaza store is like a mini Super-Walmart. It has a deli specializing in fried chicken, a meat market with fresh cut mutton and beef, cooking pots and pans, bolts of fabric, Pendleton blankets, yarn, all manner of non-prescription drugs, toys, Zuni breads, and best of all raw stones for jewelers including turquoise, jet, abalone, and mother of pearl. It also has those ancient creaky plank wooden floors. I'll be taking Sandy back in a few weeks. She can't wait to go now that I've tested and given high approval. And, best of all for us, this hidden jewel of Zuni is a mere 50 minutes from our home in Gallup.

Rain Dancer Kachinas, Back from Zuni, Part 3

Photography of ceremonial events is strictly prohibited, but I wanted to give a visual representation of the colorful rain dancers. The ceremonial dance group consisted of about 40 very similarly outfitted rain dancers interspersed among them were about 10 entertaining mud men Kachinas. There were 4 corn maiden Kachina girls and one singularly unique fellow who appeared to have a leadership role as chief or priest. There were a couple of Kachinas on the drum but they mostly escaped my view. The percussion instrumentation provided a pleasant accompaniment to the chant of the rain dancers. The mud men were well done and variety in size from normal to very obese. The rain dancers were much more uniform in size. It was their costumes that fascinated me. They each looked like they might have just stepped out of a Hollywood make-up room; yes, they were expertly goomed. They had collars leggings of recently harvested evergreen fern uniformly cut like a fresh hair trim. They wore decorative loin cloths, head masks with prominent snouts as in the representative picture, moccasins,macaw feather accents, and they were rump-draped with coyote and fox pelts. I was particularly interested in their jewelry which showed the biggest variation. They wore beads, and turquoise necklaces, ketohs (bow guards), and sterling silver bracelets.

At one point all but mud men left the arena. They then played some type of game with a small sac they kicked around. They humorously wrestled and pushed about. The crowd laughed, but it the small boy who cackled in merriment that accented the performance for me.

When the Kachinas returned they brought in large baskets filled with goods. They began throwing Frisbees, plastic kool-aide drinks, packed Ramen noodles, fruits, candy, saltine crackers, frisbees, and much more high up to the encircled crowd. I ended up with an apple and orange which I prompted gave to the teen boy beside me.

I wanted to get a representation of a good Rain Dancer Kachina. Ruddell pointed me to the home of a notable Kachina maker within the plaza, but I didn't find it practical to seek him out at that hour or to find him the next morning. The image you see here, is a two dimensional plywood cut out 1/2 home to Gallup from Zuni. Joe has a whole series of faux-Kachinas lined up next to his place. Joe Milo's is another classic. Stop in to see him if you ever travel the highway that connects Galup and Zuni.

Dowa Yalanee (Corn Mountain) - Back from Zuni, Part 2

click for enlargement

I think my roof-top simultaneous view of Corn Mountain, bathed in the golden soft light of late afternoon transformed my first rain dance into a visual experience that seemed heaven nurtured. An onlooker sitting ring-side on the lower roof in the time of the vintage photograph of the previous post would probably not have seen Corn Mountain. This mountain rises to an elevation of 7,235 feet and has served not only as a spiritual landmark, but also as place of refuge as occurred in 1540 when Coronado descended on the Zuni lands.

As the rain-dance began to conclude for the night, I ran back across the Zuni River to my pickup and raced to catch the light on Dowa Yalanee before nightfall descended. The hustle was unnecessary, I had plenty of time, but the clouds are often unpredictable and the light at risk of going flat. As I looked back, I saw the rain clouds moving in. This morning the ground was soaked with wet snow.

Back from Zuni Pueblo, Part 1

from the Collection of the Denver Public Library, taken 1880-1900 (click for enlarged view)

I have always lamented the loss of the long vanished view of the Zuni Pueblo in the heyday of its bold grandeur and character. Actually, I've even avoided Zuni for the most part for several reasons. It's not really in any crossroads area. The jewelry for sale there is pretty much identical to that found in Gallup. The village itself is not picturesque. If the adobe structures, including the very popular hornos (outdoor ovens) were to be extracted along with the Indian Arts building on the main street through town, the community would be very comparable visually to mainstream rural America: prefab homes, double wides, trailer homes, panel sided structures, many cars, a cross-studded graveyard, and a few scattered brick, mortar, and stone houses, etc.

My overnight trip to Zuni from exit from my front door to return was only 19 hours, but I have to say it was one of the top ten trips of my life. What happened? I've for years appreciated the amazingly beautiful and intricate jewelry that the Pubelo is admired for throughout the world, but until yesterday I'd never seen the inner beauty of the community. My vision yesterday was probably as brilliant as that of the large-format exploratory photographers and adventurous anthropologists of the late 19th century. The essential ingredient of my mystical view was the rain-dance performed as it has been for hundreds of years in the plaza, the very plaza where the people are standing in the vintage photo above. The pueblo is now less adobe, much of it machine cut stone, and at best it is only about 4 stories high. Nonetheless, I stood spell bound on the roof along with my good Zuni friend, a famed jeweler, Ruddell Laconsello, and witnessed a moving cultural and religious rain-dance ceremony. It was there and then that I finally saw the glorious light of Zuni, both past and present!