Colina Yazzie:

When I was a little kid, it was something that everybody collected. My mom loves jewelry, she always has to have a pin on her shirt--at least that. Even when she's around the house, she always has a beautiful pin to wear on her shirt. When she goes somewhere to sell her rug or goes to the store or to a ceremony, she'll put on a necklace and bracelets. When I was growing up, at times when it was my birthday or something, she'd give me jewelry. Some of the smaller pieces I still have. The way she introduced jewelry to me, it just stayed with me for years. I knew that she loved those pieces, and she wanted me to wear them.



Bruce Burnham:

Well, the system that I see in place with the Navajo is that if you pay a Navajo $1,000 for four bags of wool, they will immediately convert that--not so much now as they would have in the past--they would have converted that cash to jewelry or goods, because they don't see the money as having any value until it's spent.  Once it's spent, then it is something that is tangible, something they can use.  You know, you've got that money in your hand, you can't eat that money, so it has no value.  So I think you're going from one culture that doesn't place any priority on saving money, to a culture that in business tries to amass money.  Everything's towards that end, of amassing wealth.  To a Navajo, an acceptable form of amassing wealth is to buy lots of jewelry, and then you have that jewelry to use, and that's, you might say, the interest on your savings account, up until the time you decide to pawn it and convert it to something else that you need.


J.B. Tanner:

Granddad, he noticed when I was talkin' to the Navajo kids alone…it was kinda hard, 'cause they couldn't talk English.  But my Granddad seen us havin' trouble learnin', bein' as we couldn't talk back and forth, and tell 'em, "Oh, this means that.  Yah-tah-hey means 'hello,'" and so forth.  So he asked Dad if he could take me to Bisbee.

My Granddad was known for the best turquoise that was ever mined.  It was down at Bisbee…. that come out of that copper mine that was down there.  That's where turquoise come from, is in your copper mines.  It's zinc and copper mixed, if it got to a certain temperature, everything erupted, and turquoise come in pockets.  That Bisbee mine produced some of the prettiest spider web and blue, and then there was some green.

We'd go down there to his mine….[then] we'd bring the turquoise back to Santo Domingo, between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and leave a bunch of turquoise there in the rough, and they would cut 'em and grind 'em, you know…. then we'd go to Zuni and leave turquoise there, and silver, so that they could make Navajo-type jewelry for him, particularly belts and bigger bracelets.  And then we would go back to Crownpoint and then down to White Rock where he stayed.  He had quite a few Navajo silversmiths from Crownpoint all the way over to Bisti and Tsaya.  They would make up jewelry.

Once we got this cycle goin', and all this time he's talkin' Navajo to me.  In a matter of six months, I started to learn pretty good.  I never will forget, I wasn't big enough to do anything hardly, and wherever the sun went down, he'd stop that pickup and get the bedrolls out, and we'd just have supper and go to bed.  And then just before daylight, he'd let a holler out of him, for me to get up, in Navajo, and make his coffee, (in Navajo) "Nídii'néehgo ahwééh shá 'ánílééh!"  And that's what that means, "Get up and make my coffee!"  (laughter)….

So then it was gettin' goin' with him on about three years, on that turquoise thing.  It wasn't a continuous thing.  Whenever he was ready to make the run, then each time we'd pick up jaclas after that first one, they'd have stuff for him each time.  Then we'd go to Window Rock and out here at Crystal, where Chee Dodge lived.  And we'd always give Chee Dodge the first pick--spread it all out there and him and his family would pick out what they wanted.  And then we'd just trade all over for horses and sheep and cattle.  Then we'd drive 'em off at Newcomb's, come across around Newcomb, Sheep Spring, and bring 'em over to White Rock.  And then he'd start 'em up and we'd take 'em on up through and ship the cattle and ship the lambs.  But he'd rather do that, than stay in the trading post.  Before I was born…. why, he was down here at Shiprock, and here at Hogback.  And then he got that homestead he had at White Rock.  He wanted that, because there were silversmiths out in that area, to do what I just talked about.


Tobe Turpen:

[My father] was hired by the MacAdams Company in Gallup, New Mexico, to come and work for them.  MacAdams was a very, very famous trader.  At that time there were three big firms in Gallup--Charles Ilfeld, Gross-Kelly, and MacAdams.  What their business was mostly was really supplying Indian traders out on the reservation.  So when you supplied these people, there was very little money around, very little cash, so you were paid for these supplies by usually rugs, and in some cases, some of the traders made jewelry.  So you had to take the rugs and jewelry.  Then of course you had to find an outlet for it.  That's where my father was very instrumental, I think.  Then he started what we refer to as "working silversmiths."  We had a shop there.  There was a shop at MacAdams in the back of the store where eight or ten Navajo silversmiths worked by piecework.  And then of course it's always been a tradition to work silversmiths at their home.  You issue them the materials, tell 'em what you want, and they make the jewelry.


Tom Woodard:

During the war the Indian Traders Association got silver released to the Navajo people, because the older Navajos were …. because of their language barrier, not able to really be of any help to the military.  So in order for them to make a living, the traders got the silver released, and it was the only precious metal released during wartime for jewelry production.  And it really created a boom period for many of the silversmiths who were left here in the area, and older people.

I heard that Marshall Fields came out, sent a buyer out from Chicago, had a check for $50,000, and he just wanted sterling silver.  And this was the only place that anyone could get it.  Of course that was a lot of money in those days--not that it's not today, but it was a lot more then.  It really did not help the quality of the craft in that they wanted something made out of a precious metal, they did not care what it looked like.  Most of the traders were used to an entirely different type of jewelry--there was more work went into it, and a sense of design and creativity and that was very important, where at that point in time it really wasn't.

My dad actually ran that place, and then he had a fellah that helped him. After the war, the traders did not see any reason to continue in the silver business, because so many other people could get in it, and they sold the silver business that they had. And at that time, I think my dad had 'em put the money they got from that, in AT&T stock. And that's why we're all sitting here today! (laughter)



Tobe Turpen:

Back during World War II…the silver and gold and all precious metals--copper, everything--was frozen for the war effort.  So there was no jewelry to be made anywhere.  There was no costume jewelry to be made, no fine jewelry.  But somehow or another, someone convinced the powers to be that the Indians needed this for their livelihood.  There were Indians that weren't gonna make it if they couldn't perform the task of making jewelry.  So the government allowed a little bit of silver to be released, and the United Indian Traders Association handled this silver and doled it out to the traders….

That's what started makin' jewelry more popular or more recognizable, was because it was the only jewelry there was in the whole United States.  And all of a sudden, here's Gallup, this little mecca, and dealers are comin' from everywhere to buy this really kinda junky Indian jewelry that people were throwing together.  One of the big dealers, [some] of the people who were most successful, a company named Bell Trading, received a contract from the government to make pilots' wings, and they were stamped out of sterling silver.  Well, either they were given extra silver, or they pulled a little off the side, because all of a sudden there was silver for them to make Indian jewelry, and they were Indian jewelry manufacturers also.

But anyway, it worked its way down--this black market silver worked its way down into some of the dealers in Gallup, and all of a sudden we became the Indian jewelry mecca of the world--of the United States, certainly.  And that's when the popularity started.

Then after the war, when other merchandise was available, it just kind of died on the vine on us.


Joe Tanner:

I was still at Navajo Shopping Center, and I'm nineteen-and-a-half or twenty at this point, not old enough to drink in a bar, but I'm big and I look like I should be able to.  So I'm down at Pete's Club, drinkin' beer and tryin' to loosen up my arm from wrappin' that hundred head of sheep (laughs) or whatever it was that I had done that day, and I was havin' a beer and I had a nice turquoise ring on….This old boy sat down next to me, and he said, "You kinda like that turquoise, huh, partner?"  And I said, "Boy, I love turquoise.  My grandfather used to mine turquoise.  I just wish that I would have been my dad and I'd been a generation sooner."

He said, "Well, I know where there's some turquoise.  I shoe horses for the horse racing circuit.  I get out to Nevada, I've done some prospectin' out there, and I have found an outcropping of really good turquoise out there in Nevada, and I'd partner with you on it."

I said, "Well, what does this take?"  And he said, "Well, if you'd give me a little money, the next time I'm through that country, I'll take a couple of days off and go mine a little of it, and I'll bring it to you and show you."  So I'm a hotshot kid, you know.  I reached in my pocket and gave him (laughs) a hundred-dollar bill and I said, "Well, just see what you can do with this."  He said, "Oh!  Fifty would have done.  This hundred will do me just great."  So away he went.  I don't think I even asked him his name.  About six months later, he showed up with a coffee can with some of the nicest turquoise that I'd ever seen.  I still have a ring that I wear sometimes out of one of the stones.  It was a nice spider web.

So I sent my brother Jerry--I bought a little caterpillar compressor, just a little unit….I think I paid $5,000.  It had a little jackhammer with it, and it was a poor boy operation.  Mining turquoise is a tough way to make a living, but that was my first partnership in a turquoise mine.

We made the claims and started mining and we got some really good turquoise out.  And so I started making some jewelry.…

Catherine Wilson and Sol Ondolasi were married and good friends of mine--friends of my grandpa's as a matter of fact, Sol was.  A lot of my information on my Grandpa Joe I got from Sol throughout his lifetime.  But we started makin' a few pieces of mostly silver jewelry.  Trimmed it with a little bit of gold.  I got involved in the Navajo Fair at Window Rock, and while all this was happening is when I sold out of Navajo Shopping Center, as well.  I actually traded out….I offered to take weavings and rugs and stuff that I had traded for, in trade for my stock.…  And Sol and Catherine and I immediately made entries for all of the categories for the Navajo Fair, the competitive awards.  We had eighteen entries in that first competition that we went to, and won seventeen blue ribbons and one red.  And we thought, "Well, this'll work!"


Tobe Turpen:

When I first came into it, when I came back from the service, it was very difficult.  People had placed no value on Indian jewelry--the tourist is the person I'm speaking to, the public.  They just didn't see any value there.  So every time you sold a piece, you had to convince them that it was really kind of worth something, and that maybe somebody else would admire it and like it.  And that was really hard to do.  And we spent a lot of years just educating the public.  And finally, in about the sixties, it started changing.  All of a sudden, the general public saw a value.  One of the things that changed it dramatically, was the big hippie movement.  They started wearing and selling the jewelry.  And the celebrities, the movie stars all of a sudden were on TV with it, and it just sort of changed overnight.  Now, all of a sudden, we can't get enough merchandise.  Everybody wants Indian jewelry.


Tom Woodard: 

There was a gal wearin' a concho belt. That was a Revlon ad.

We sold to the Department of Interior shop in Washington, and American Indian Art Center in New York.  Those were accounts that we had.  And this Vogue magazine came out, and there was a gal wearin' a squash blossom necklace, another wearin' a concho belt.  And I bet there hadn't been two squash blossom necklaces sold in New York in the preceding ten years.  But they ordered ten of them.  We asked them if they were sober and sure.  "What are you gonna do with ten squash blossom necklaces in New York?!"

And before they got them, they had ordered like ten to twenty more.  It just started and it really mushroomed.  I mean, that's what I kind of attribute it to.  It was some national publicity.  It had absolutely nothing to do with Indian jewelry.  They were selling cosmetics, but it was just a fashion statement.

Pretty soon it just went wild.  It was way over what we in the business could control.  There was just no way.


Joe Tanner:

I started going to Zuni.  Because by this time I had some turquoise coming in from this mining operation, and it was pretty darned-good stuff.  And then there was a mining operation out in Nevada that was called one of the oldest continually operated mines in the history of turquoise mining.  It was a mine called Lone Mountain Turquoise.  Well, a guy by the name of Rocky Wilson owned that mine, and he hadn't operated it for about three years, and this mountain was a honeycomb of old workings.  This property has work on it from prehistoric times.

My brother Jerry was disenchanted with the mining and he didn't want to do it, so he left and I still had this partner of mine out in Nevada.  When I went out to check on the turquoise, well, then we went over and I met Rocky Wilson.  And we went over and looked at the Lone Mountain operation.  Rocky didn't want much to lease it, so as I was out there, I was looking through the dump.  As I looked through the dump, it looked to me like there was a lot of small turquoise that was never salvaged.  So instead of deep digging and deep mining, I opted to have my partner, Lyn Odison [phonetic spelling], we just took cement mixers and screens and completely reworked all of the old operation, and it was the absolute perfect stone for the Zunis to use, because they don't like big stones anyway.  And so we started mining this--or salvaging this, I guess I should say--and I started going to Zuni ….

But the Zunis kept coming in with stuff that they couldn't sell.  They were making all the wrong kinds of jewelry.  And I had, by this time, gotten to know a lot of shakers and movers in the art world.  My best friend and best customer at Navajo Shopping Center was a guy by the name of Al Packard from Santa Fe, that always had one of the most successful Indian stores in the Indian art business.  I talked to Al Packard, I knew the Fred Harvey people, knew Manny Goodman in Old Town Albuquerque, and I have an uncle, Bill McGee, that had a great store in the Scottsdale area.  And then this Armand Ortega down in Tucson, and several other people in Tucson.  I just went and asked all of them, "Well, if the Zunis made something....  They're apparently making the wrong stuff.  You don't want this.  What do you want?"  I had stuff with me that I had traded for and that wasn't what they wanted.

So they began to show me what they thought would sell.  And then I began to do sketches of what the Zunis could make and had made.  So I would take these sketches on my next trip, and I started getting orders for Zuni jewelry.  What I would do then, is have Phil Woodard, [who] has Indian Jewelers Supply--he would cut up the silver just the way I needed it.  I would get the orders for all the different kinds of things that the market wanted, and then I had this little profit and loss statement that I gave each one of the Zunis.  So I literally started door-to-door.  Instead of having a place at Zuni, I would work at my store in Gallup 'til noon, and then what I would do is go from there, pick up the silver orders from Phil, and take the turquoise to Zuni, and give the Zunis, I'd say, "If you'd make twenty of these and ten of these and five of these and four of these, I'm going to pay you $150 for these items.  And the materials, the silver and the turquoise and the shell cost you $80, and you're going to make a net of $70."  And they were just tickled to have the work.

So I'd give 'em a profit and loss on each one, and I started doin' that.  My pattern became, what I was doing was, I was spending until midnight or two or three in the morning, sometimes, at Zuni, getting the things made.  And then I would take it to these buyers and sell it to them.  And this thing just took off.  I was doing just an incredible volume, but I was eatin', sleepin', and drinkin' it.


Tobe Turpen:

For years, the Zunis made their type of jewelry--the Zunis were stone cutters, the Navajos were not stone cutters.  So a Zuni would buy a few ounces of rough turquoise--came right out of the mine, right out of the ground, as we call it, rough--take it home, cut it, and mount it.  They have a little different system, too.  They make the mounting first, and then cut the stone to fit the mounting.  A Navajo works just the opposite.  You give him a stone, and he builds around it. …Out in the hogans he had no electricity, usually, so he had no equipment for cutting the stones.  But it goes further than that, it's just a matter of tradition.  That's the two types.

Well, that has changed now, down through the years.  Now Navajos are mounting Zuni-type jewelry, making Zuni-type jewelry.  The use of coral now, we use coral where the first time I ever used coral in jewelry, I put it in, used it with turquoise, but in the same piece of jewelry.  You just can't believe the flak we had from the dealers.  They thought we had bastardized the whole business.  "You can't do this!  This is terrible!  You can't take a nice piece of turquoise and stick coral around it!"  We've had a lot of things happen like that over the years.


Joe Tanner:

I had a great episode with my uncle, Bill McGee.  I was depending on him for about $30,000 every two months.  I'm a shoestring operation, and he was one of my most important customers, with his operation in Scottsdale.  I went breezin' in there one day with my group of things that we had created, and he said, "Joe, I just can't buy a thing today."

And I said, "Bill!  Why not?!"

He said, "Well, Zachary was just here"--he was another jewelry maker, and had made a lot of real big, showy Navajo stuff that didn't sell.

I said, "Uncle Bill McGee, you just come with me for five minutes here, and we're gonna walk out in your store, and we're gonna go around.  I have sold you no less than $80,000 worth of jewelry in the last few months.  We're going to go out to your cases and see how much of that $80,000 worth of stuff that I have sold you is here, and how much of it's gone."

Well, we went out into his big, wonderful showroom, and we couldn't find $8,000 worth of my stuff.

I said, "If I walk out of here, I'm never walkin' in your door again.  But I'm depending on you to buy from me.  If you don't have the money, you'd better go get it from the bank, because (chuckles) I've got what you're selling!"

Well, he never faltered after that…


Tom Woodard: 

During the seventies I think we had something like 32 [silversmiths] working in our shop itself.  We had 205 silversmiths doing piecework for us, where we would give them materials and orders to make things.

That was not a real good time for the quality side of the Indian jewelry business.  It was just too easy to sell, and too many people became involved in it.

If every Indian in the United States was a jeweler, they could not have supplied the demand at that particular time.  I mean, every country and western movie star, every service station attendant, every schoolteacher--I mean, there wasn't anybody that wasn't in the Indian business somehow, sellin' jewelry.

It bought in the manufacturing gang, it brought in the Arabs.  It was just something that the people who were...  Well, in 1968, in McKinley County, there were nine people registered with the Bureau of Revenue in the Indian arts and crafts business.  And McKinley County goes from essentially Grants to the state line, and from just below Farmington to way down below Zuni--very substantial area.  That's in 1968.  in 1978, there were 119 in the Gallup phone book.  So, I mean, that'll tell you what happened in that timeframe.

And I think at one point in time....  Well, up until, say, the late sixties, you almost knew everybody in the United States that was in the Indian arts and crafts business….  And there was room in there for everybody.  I thought there was always enough business to support everybody.  And of course it really got away from us there, where there was no way that.... I kinda laughed at 'em when Penney's came to me and they wanted to buy jewelry for a hundred stores.  And I said, "Well, I've only got one store.  How could I supply you with that kind of quantity?!"  There's no way I could do it….


Virginia Burnham: 

Bruce is the one that took sand casting class when we first moved here, and I learned from my husband how to silversmith then, and gold I learned on my own.  We went to one of our first shows in Flagstaff, and we sold everything I had, and that's what got us started.

When we came home, we had enough money to hire some silversmiths and just really get into making jewelry.  That's what we did, we started a production of Indian jewelry.  I did all the layouts and the design.  I designed almost everything that went out.  My husband started doing the same with some things that were different.  So we really got into the manufacturing of jewelry for about three years.  Then we got bigger.  I think we did, for a few years, like eight years or so, just were really into making jewelry.  It was right during the jewelry boom.  We did very well.

We got out of the trading business and did just jewelry manufacturing for a few years, and then went back.  Bruce got tired of traveling all the time.  (chuckles)  You know, we had to go out and wholesale a lot of our jewelry.  So he decided that he didn't want to travel too much, so that jewelry manufacturing enabled us to build our store here.  And we built this trading post and got back into the trading business, which is what he loves more than anything, I think.  He said, "I miss dealing with the Indian people," with my people, you know.  So we got back into it, and we've been here ever since.


Tobe Turpen:


Cole: Maybe tell us a little bit about your relationship with your artisans, your silversmiths.

Turpen: They're very easy to work with. I always found that Navajos were extremely easy to work with. They were hard to direct. Way back, you would tell 'em you wanted something, and they'd take it home and change it. When I very first came in the store--maybe even before that--I remember my dad doing this. You see, they pounded silver--what we call "pounded" it--because the sheets and the wires and gauges were not available. So we gave 'em what we call slugs. They were about an inch square, and the thickness of a silver dollar, and if you wanted what we call a ten-ounce belt made--which was a concho belt maybe two inches by an inch-and-a-half, that would be equivalent to a ten-ounce belt--you'd throw 'em ten ounces, you'd throw 'em ten slugs. They did weigh about an ounce, and they had to go home and pound that. And of course it was really hard when you got down to making like a bezel that would hold a stone, and you'd have to pound it almost tissue paper thin. So way back, makin' jewelry was physical. There was a lot of work in it.

And as far as the silversmiths we worked, a lot of times, sort of families. The husband would come in and you could usually get them to show you, you'd say.... One thing about a Navajo silversmith, he never saw anything he couldn't make--or at least he never admitted it, because when you'd say, "What do you make?" [he responded], "Anything! I make anything." "You make bracelets?" "Sure." "Rings?" "Sure." "Can you make little bowls?" "No, but maybe my sister can." See? And you'd give 'em something--very seldom did they have a sample they could show you, so you just kinda took 'em at value, but over a period of time, everybody knew them. And of course what happened, too, was we all worked the same silversmiths. There weren't that many. There are lots of silversmiths today--hundreds of 'em, maybe thousands, I don't know. Back then there was, I really thought, sort of a handful, and they just kinda moved from store to store. They'd take my silver and then they'd go get some from someone else, and then if they spent a little more money than they should have, all of a sudden he's takin' my silver and makin' the other trader's jewelry, and then he's takin' his and makin' mine. And they were very slow, they were very undependable as far as time.

We never got beat out of a lot. Needless to say, over a period of time, someone's gonna get in financial trouble and not bring your work back. But that happened very seldom, it wasn't a big problem. They had great personalities. They were fun. Navajos have a great sense of humor. They seemed to always pick the busiest time, Saturday afternoon, to bring their work in, and you had to take care of 'em, because they had to be paid, they had to have their money. It just seemed like they never brought it in at a slack time. And of course a lot of 'em had to come a long way. They traveled. We had silversmiths workin' thirty, forty, fifty miles away from Gallup.

The Zuni silversmith was a different situation. The Zuni, we never contracted to the Zuni. I suppose you could have, but it seemed like that just wasn't in their makeup. They bought the materials, went home, made it, brought it in and shopped it around, sold it to the highest bidder. So it was a completely different situation doing business with them, than doing business with the Navajo....

We've had a lot of things happen… over the years.  Then along came the stabilized turquoise.  Stabilized turquoise is turquoise that's been what we call "enhanced."

When a mine produces turquoise, it produces a lot of white, a lot of light blue, maybe some darker colors, much more no color than anything else.  So people learned how to put color in this by using what we call the stabilize method.  They pressure plastic into it.  And of course again, it was very frowned on, that this couldn't be used.  But it made a very fine stone, it never broke, it was easy to cut, it matched in color, it served a purpose.  It took a lot of years, though, for the public to accept it.  They still don't completely accept it, but it is used in many forms today, whereas other turquoise could not even be used for it.  For instance, Santa Domingo jewelry, the type of beads that the Santa Domingos make.  They can't get the natural turquoise even today.  It's not even available to them.  So most all beads that you see:  beads, and where there's beads and shells strung together, that's usually stabilized turquoise.  And today in that form it's pretty well accepted.

We went through a time when concho belts and what we call link belts--a link belt is a belt that's not on leather, it's just hooked together with silver.  Our belts were selling for $15, $18, $25, $35, depending on how much silver we put in 'em.  A fellah in Phoenix started stampin' 'em out of nickel silver, and selling 'em for $2.95.  Well, of course every one frowned on that, but there was a place for it.  There was a place that the public--that was a price range and a look, so nickel belts went through a very, very popular stage.

We went through what we call spin cast, where you make a mold and you use a little machine to centrifugally spin this, and you get out a piece of finished jewelry that doesn't need much finish on it.  We've been through that.  That's still very popular today.

Then we started usin' gold.  Many of the dealers frowned on gold, "Oh, the Indians never use gold, you shouldn't use gold."  But again, these things just take time.  As the public accepts them, the dealer then accepts them, and now they're part of the business.

And today, presently we're running into something that I don't know what'll be the final outcome.  We worked our way through many of these other things, but now we have what we refer to as Asian imports.  The Oriental people can make jewelry as good or better than our Indians can.  There's no doubt about it.  There are laws that are not being enforced, and there's lots of Asian imports comin' in at a low price, and I don't know what it'll do to the Indian business.


John W. Kennedy and John D. Kennedy:

 Underhill:  What do you think the future of Indian arts and crafts is at the moment, with the influx of Asian forgeries?

John W.:  It really got hurt the last two years, badly wounded.  Some of those Gallup wholesalers that were doing $6 million a year are doing $1.5 million now.

John D.:  If that.

John W.:  Yeah, terribly.  It just destroyed the business.  And a lot of it was that Arab influence that came into Gallup.  Then they brought in Philippine jewelry and mingled everything together.  Nobody knows whether they're buying anything authentic or not, and the end result is--well, I think you had the fellow on the noon show....

John D.:  Paul Harvey.

John W.:  Paul Harvey.  He made an announcement two or three years ago that Indian arts and crafts were no longer a sound investment.  And see, at one time, there were periodic articles in the Wall Street Journal that "you'd better buy rugs," or "you'd better buy good silverwork," or this or that.  So it had all America buying anything of quality.  And suddenly they all got a chill the last two years.

To go out and sell Indian goods today is walking in mud.


Russell Foutz:

Grandma Martin, we used to put her beads out on display, her red beads.

When the government give Fort Lewis to the school... they made it [that] any Navajo had free tuition to go to Fort Lewis. And there's a very well-known woman we call Grandma Martin. She only died about four or five years ago, I guess. She was one of the first Indians to go to college, and she went to that Fort Lewis School there. And we was talkin' about her famous red beads. She had probably the biggest strand of red beads that there was--had two strands--she always wore around her neck, under her clothes. And I was always kiddin' her about when she died, about I was gettin' her red beads. Her kids drank quite a bit. And she said, "Yes, you're gonna get a strand of my beads, but my kids are not gonna get it--you're the one that's gonna get a strand of beads."

So one day she came in there, and she motioned for me to come in the back room. She sat down, and she had her red beads out. She said, "I'm going to give you these. I promised you a string of my beads. These beads have been on the Long Walk." You know, whenever that.... "They were my grandmother's beads, they've been on the Long Walk, and I want you to have a strand of them." And here she was in the back room, telling me she's dying this weekend.

I said, "You're not dying this weekend," with her little hands trying' to get this string of red beads off. She gave 'em to me, and she said, "No." I said, "Grandma, as long as you're that--I want to furnish the bracelets they're going to bury you with." "Okay, let's pick 'em out." And I said, "Grandma, this is a payday week, we're busy out there. You don't have to die this weekend, you can die some other time."

She said, "Oh, Mr. Foutz, you say the most terrible things!" I said, "Put it off 'til Monday. Come back in and get your [bracelets]." "Okay, I'll try." So the following Monday, she come in to get her bracelets to be buried with. She'd put it off.

She lived another five years! (laughter)

...I've still got the string of beads just in my desk drawer up there. And I don't know who got the rest of those. She said those kids wasn't gonna get 'em, so I don't know whether they did or not.



Tom Woodard:

Indian jewelry has been, well, maybe a tourist item and this type of thing, but to the Indian people, it is very important.  They can spot good jewelry a lot quicker than anybody else, and they place a lot of their wealth in the jewelry.  This will relate to why pawn is--why they want it under safekeeping.  Your movie stars have diamond necklaces, turquoise is the Indians' diamond necklace.

In our store in Gallup, we would sell probably more Indian jewelry to Indian people than we did to any other group of people.  They were very good customers, and they would buy the better jewelry.  The price on it, if it was good enough quality, the price did not affect them at all, 'cause they would really pay for really good material.



Raymond C. Yazzie [silversmith]:


Cole: You mentioned that you still have kind of a reverence for your traditions. Do those traditions influence your art at all?

Yazzie: There's times when you feel like you really can't seem to work. When you're actually working, it seems like you're really not accomplishing anything. And then there's times that you just don't even want to step into your workshop, because of the workload that you have. Those times, you know you feel like you need a blessing or a ceremonial done for you. So that's the time when it has to step in. You have to go out and find a medicine man and do some prayers for you. After that, you feel refreshed.…

My mom always used to say that what you work with, like the turquoise, the coral, the jet and all these other things, the medicine men use those as offerings to different things. She used to tell us in our history, the turquoise and the shells and the jet and all this-those were given to us through life. They have a prayer with it, and you're supposed to say a prayer for it. But sometimes when you get so caught up in the fast lane of life, you forget all these things, and the only way for it to remind you is that you kind of don't like to work anymore, or you're not accomplishing anything, even though you're working. It's like it reminds you you need some prayers done for yourself. So that's when we do have prayers done and ceremonials done.