Thunderbirds are Go! at Colonial Williamsburg

No, not those Thunderbirds– I’m talking about the Native American kind. Step aside, Etsy and fake tribal patterns from Forever 21- let the original masters show you how it’s done.

Imagine living in a pueblo during the Great Depression. Your family has earned money for generations making and selling jewelry to both fellow native people and tourists alike. But now . . . there’s no money for the precious stones and metals. What do you do?

Thunderbird 1

The jewelry makers of the Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico responded to this shortage by doing what artists do naturally- taking inspiration from the world around them. Instead of precious stones, they used plastic from LP records, car batteries, and anything else that had the desired color and could be manipulated into jewelry.


This weekend, “Thunderbirds: Jewelry of the Santo Domingo Pueblo” is opening at the Folk Art Museum of Colonial Williamsburg. You’ll be able to see how the artists kept their traditions alive and provided for their families by creatively transforming the resources at hand.

Bonus! Saturday there’s a lecture by the curators themselves, Roddy and Sally Moore. If you want to learn the story behind this jewelry, it’s a must-see. You’ll need either your Good Neighbor Pass ($10 for the whole year) or a Museum Admission ticket ($13).

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