Native American Culture/Identification of Artist

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Mr. Sutton,

I have a beautiful Sundancer Kachina bolo tie that I purchased from a dealer in Sierra Vista, AZ, over 20 years ago and I am attempting to identify the artist. I was told at the time of the purchase that the artist was the son-in-law of former Arizona Governor Evan Meacham, but I can't remember his name. As you'll see from the picture of the back of the piece, his mark consists of a broken arrow suspended over two mountains (four lines forming two peaks, the text "MADE IN AMERICA Sterling" with each word stacked above the other, and a broken arrow at the bottom. I would be very appreciative if you could help me identify the artist.

Many thanks,

Randy Weaver

Answer
I'm stumped, Randy. I've seen similar work over the years from a couple of Navajo families (especially the Long family and Morgans) and a Taos silversmith, but none of them match the hallmarks. The Sun Kachina (Sun Dance is a Northern Plains tradition and not correctly ascribed to this piece, despite the trader-title) figure in your tie is probably Navajo made, if it is indeed American Indian made. The level of detail in the overlay of the mask shows a stippled rather than a chisel-marked background which is more typical of Navajo overlay. Hopi overlay is usually a bit sharper and uses directionally chiseled background texturing. Given Evan Meacham's Mormon background and very conservative, almost racist views, I would be very surprised if a Native man married into his family, so the piece may have been made by a non-Indian silversmith. I searched through many volumes of hallmark reference as well as my own hand notes, but did not find anything close enough to consider a variation or family subset. It's a beautifully crafted piece, no matter who made it. I'm sorry I couldn't find out more for you.

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Richard Sutton

Expertise

As a direct reservation trader in all aspects of American Indian arts since 1985, I've answered questions regarding cultural property issues, origins of traditional crafts, materials and techniques, collecting, authenticity, symbols and, of course, repairs! We have operated a retail gallery since that time, bricks and mortar until 2007 and online since 1996. Our online operation closed in 2/2015, to allow me to finally write full-time. My writing site can be found at www.sailletales.com I'll be adding a book or two from our trader experiences under the pen name of W.T. Durand and the rest of my fiction is under my own name. We are not "New Age" practitioners of adopted American Indian religious ceremonies or combined philosophies. If you are seeking such knowledge for spiritual reasons, we will only provide answers that address factual information on these subjects. Unless one is raised in a traditional, American Indian family with language, culture and religious belief intact, we don't believe that simply applying the trappings or cultural property of a given traditional group will give a non-Indian (Native if you prefer)any insight other than the academic.

Experience

My primary focus is on Southwester American Indian Nations and their people, but I also have experience in Plains and Northeastern traditions, having engaged in active trade and retail since 1985 and study for most of my life. I am not claiming any expertise at all in the work, techniques, lifeways or crafts that are made by the Native People of Mexico. They are not the same, either linguistically or culturally but certainly their crafts deserve discussion and appraisal by those who are able to provide real information.

Publications
I was a guest on Fox Network "Lifestyles" program, during the 1990s, to discuss how to tell forgeries, and authenticating jewelry as Native American work. I have also written extensively for our website, www.kivatrading.com and our Ebay Store.

Education/Credentials
UofO, 1970 active in the Authentic American Indian Arts business and direct Trader since 1985. Graphic Designer and published novelist.

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