Harold Smith, aka Jay Silverheels was born to the family of a Mohawk chief on the Six Nations of the Grand Reserve, Ohsweken, Ontario, Canada. His athleticism (excelling in lacrosse, boxing, and wrestling) proved useful when he moved into films, first as a stuntman, then as an actor.
After appearing in a movie together, Clayton Moore and Silverheels were then hired to play the roles of the Lone Ranger and his Native friend, Tonto, in the television series, “the Lone Ranger.” (1949 – 1957). He was “perhaps the first legitimate Native American television star.” Red Face
The Lone Ranger, originally a successful radio show, told the tale of the “masked man” and his faithful friend, Tonto, as they rode through the “lawless” West bringing justice and order to good citizens.
“Silverheels’ character was little more than a cultural stereotype, with Tonto speaking broken English and always subservient to the Lone Ranger. But as the first Native American actor to play a Native American on television, he broke new ground for Native actors, something he would dedicate much time and effort to throughout the rest of his life.” Windspeaker.com
Later, he founded the American Indian Actors Workshop, in Echo Park, California and was a spokesperson for Native American rights. After his death in 1980, his ashes returned to the Reserve to be scattered. Find a Grave
a lightly edited reblog of “a month of sundays” from May 26, 2019