Michael Gorman Gallery | On The Taos Plaza 103 East Plaza, Suite B
Open Tuesday - Saturday 12-8 or by appointment | Schedule An Appointment +1-575-224-6911
103 East Plaza, Suite B Taos, New Mexico | +1 (575) 224 - 6911
Open Wednesday-Saturday 12-7pm (Thursday closing at 5pm)
or by appointment
Béésh łigaii ‘ííłíní ‘ałts’óózigi
Slim Maker of Silver
*1831- December 10, 1915
Béésh łigaii ‘ííłíní ‘ałts’óózigi - pronounced: Bay-shh thLuh-guy eelth-inny alth-tsOH-zigi - was my great-great-grandfather. His name translates to "Metal-[of]-white maker, slim" or "Slim Maker of Silver".
He was among the very first Navajo Silversmiths and according to many, including the Franciscan Fathers’ who wrote an Ethnologic Dictionary of the Navaho Language (1910) “at one time...considered one of the best, if not the best silversmith [among the Navajo].”
In his heyday, Slim Maker of Silver employed ten or more silversmiths working in assembly line (predating Henry Ford's assembly line by at least a decade), a practice still used today to complete large projects by Navajo metalsmiths.
According to family stories, Béésh łigaii ‘ííłíní ‘ałts’óózigi learned silversmithing from Mexicans while he and the Diné [Navajo] were imprisoned at Bosque Redondo between 1863 and 1868. Many accounts also claim that he may have taken some tutelage from a man named Atsidi Saní - but I have not been able to verify that (see note)
In 1893 Béésh łigaii ‘ííłíní ‘ałts’óózigi traveled to the World's Fair in Chicago with his brother-in-law, Charley Mitchell, and Chee Dodge (who would go on to become the first elected tribal chairman of the Navajo Nation). After witnessing first hand the size, scope, and influence of the outsider's world, he returned to Dinehtah (Navajo Land) where he advocated that the Navajo learn about these outsiders through education.
Béésh łigaii ‘ííłíní ‘ałts’óózigi had three wives, all sisters, from the Dibé łizhiní (Black Sheep) clan with whom he had a total of 19 children. Alice Peshlakai was the eldest of his daughters with his second wife. (Greenberg, Henry and Georgia, Carl Gorman's World, 1984, pg 22). She was my great-grandmother who would marry Nelson Gorman, my great-grandfather. Fred Peshlakai was among Alice's younger siblings who became a silversmith in his own right and worked with my grandfather, Carl N. Gorman, to fashion several pieces of jewelry of Carl's design in the later half of the 20th century. Paul, Frank, Bahajibah were also among her younger siblings.
I would recommend reading Navajo Silversmith Fred Peshlakai. His Life and Art. by Steven Curtis (linked to the author's website).
Atsidi Saní - pronounced: At-city Sunny - is credited by many as being the first Navajo Silversmith. His name translates from Diné Bizaad (the Navajo language) as "Old Smith". He was also known by his Spanish name: Herrero or Herrero Delgadito - "Smith" or "Little Iron Worker". REF - Lund, Marsha, Indian Jewelry Fact & Fantasy, 1976
Béésh łigaii 'ííłíní 'ałts'óózigi
2. Bil-ki jiz-bah
4. Taos Woman
Alice Peshlakai (2) m. Nelson Gorman 1903
Fred Peshlakai (4) m. June Hubbard 1927