The First Zuni Silversmith

Lanyade,_SilversmithThe first written documentation of Lanyade’s position as the first Zuni silversmith appears in the book, “The Navajo and Pueblo Silversmiths” by John Adair, published in 1940. Lanyade was in his nineties when he related to Adair, his version of how he came to be a silversmith. The year was 1872; Lanyade was around thirty years old when a Navajo named Atsidi Chon came to Zuni. In Lanyade’s rendition of the meeting, Lanyade offered no explanation for why a possible enemy of the village, Atsidi,would come to Zuni. Lanyade spoke Navajo. He hadlearned the language while traveling through Navajo  country on his way to the Hopi villages. Atsidi and Lanyade became friends and Atsidi ended up living with him at Zuni.

Atsidi Chon knew how to make complicated silver items, such as Concho belts and bridles. Lanyade offered Atsidi a horse if he would show him how to be a silversmith and Atsidi agreed. Atsidi lived with Lanyade for a year and Lanyade was the only person he taught how to be a silversmith while at Zuni. Lanyade made his own bellows and stamps after Atsidi Chon left. Atsidi told Adair that he traveled all the way to Albuquerque to get pesos to use in his silversmith work. Coins from both the United States and Mexico continued to be a source for silver until almost the start of World War II.

For several years Lanyade was the only silversmith at Zuni, but finally taught his friend Balwade how to make jewelry. Balwade made the buttons worn by

Frank Hamilton Cushing as seen in the photo, “Cushing in Zuni Regalia”, from the Bureau of American Ethnology Collection’s copy of Cushing’s book,” Zuni”. In 1898, Lanyade continued the honor of passing on his silversmithing skills; this time to Sikyatala of Walpi(First Mesa), while visiting him. Sikyatala, in turn, became the first Hopi silversmith.