People / Jay Silverheels

Actor, activist. Jay Silverheels was born Harold J. Smith on the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation, near Brantford, Ontario, on May 26, 1912. Silverheels is remembered for the character he played, Tonto, in the popular mid-century American television program, The Lone Ranger (1949–1957). In this role, Silverheels was the first aboriginal person to play a Native American on television. The character of Tonto was laconic and stoic, and Silverheels would be typecast for the rest of his career, for example, in films such as True Grit (1969). Silverheels became an activist, intent on improving representations of First Nations people in the media, and formed the Indian Actor’s Workshop in 1966 to encourage young aboriginal actors. Silverheels passed away in 1980.

  1. 02. Popular Jay Silverheels, Native Voice, December 1960
    Jay Silverheels (Ephemera)