Native American Culture/Expert Profile

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Richard Sutton


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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 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 in the area

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.


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, and our Ebay Store.


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

What do you like about this subject?

I've been a student of American Indian culture and arts since my earliest childhood. Growing up in the West, we were surrounded by people of American Indian heritage -- many of my classmates were "Indian" kids. I've always held a deep respect for any culture that can withstand occupation and still flower.

What do you still hope to achieve/learn in this field?

As long as my ears remain open, I hope I'll absorb new information -- I'll also try and remember to keep my mouth closed when it is appropriate, as it's hard to learn when you're talking!

Something interesting about this subject that others may not know:

Navajo silver smithing is a recent art form. When the Navajo people were taken by the US Government in 1864 to a remote, hostile location in Southeastern New Mexico to re-settle, they had to rely upon the Army to supply them with their needs. Metal smithing was learned during their captivity, from Mexican tack workers who taught tooling and simple fabrication to a few eager to learn Navajo men.

Something controversial or provocative about this subject

The issue of just what constitutes "cultural property" pervades discussions of American Indian arts, especially discussions of authenticity. Cultural property is recognized in objects and symbols that have sprung from a specific indigenous culture, and associated with their spiritual and religious beliefs.

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Recent Answers from Richard Sutton

2016-12-06 Identifying a native blanket:

This seems to be imported, horizontally loomed, embroidered trade work from South America, probably Peru, but Ecuadorian Native People also produces textiles like this. Southwestern Navajo weaving is done

2016-11-29 culture:

I think one of the problems we face as a species is our tendency to want to reduce things to common denominators all the time. Truth is, we're more diverse than we can get our brains around. The only answer

2016-11-28 Painting:

You can attach a couple of images (in good, sharp focus) of the painting, to a followup question and I'll do what I can. I would also contact the anthropology dept. of the University of Minnesota to see

2016-11-25 Maker's Mark: Native American Pendant:

Madison; We have only fifteen notes on different Nez family silversmiths, none who sign with an "M". Nez is a Navajo name, and from the style of the work, my guess would place the piece in or around Gallup

2016-10-03 Ray Tracey jewelry:

Ray Tracey Studios uses sterling as well as gold fill, gold overlay (soldered atop sterling backing) and full gold in jewelry it makes. I've never seen anh overall gold plated piece from them, but it may


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