Native American Silversmiths

In the Pacific in World War II many native Americans were drafted. Notable were the so called code talkers deployed by the army. Among them were Lakota, Meskwaki, Mohawk, Comanche, Tlingit, Hopi, Cree, and Crow soldiers; some also served in the North African, and European theaters.

When the native American soldiers returned to the U.S. after the war they had been monetized and the government needed to figure out how to create jobs for them. One idea was to train them as silversmiths. With a few thousand dollars all the tools and equipment can be set to have a one-man workshop. In New Mexico the Pueblo Indians (19 tribes), the Apache (3 tribes) and the Zuni were the most prominent (in numbers) to learn silversmithing. The problem then became selling the production of these silversmiths. The government decided to start a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to promote the Native American silver jewelry. Some New York merchants saw a big opportunity by becoming their agents and moved to Santa Fe. These merchants commercialized the native American jewelry quite successfully.

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