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This profile was last updated on 6/4/12  and contains information from public web pages.

Silversmith

Zuni
 
Background

Employment History

  • Zuni Tribal Member and Archaeologist
  • Executive Vice President New Business Development and General Manager
    Talon

Board Memberships and Affiliations

  • Member
    Zuni Pueblo Council
  • Member
    Zuni Tribal Council
25 Total References
Web References
Gallup Journey » West by Southwest
gallupjourney.com, 4 June 2012 [cached]
Dan Simplicio Sr. was a relative of Bruce’s and they sometimes collaborated.  Some of the Zunies’ patterns have survived, though most are lost. Dorothy says that some of the sketches were done for them by another great Zuni artist, Anthony Edaaki, including the one for the magnificent eagle dancer.
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Older jewelers in the village don’t think Leekity made anywhere near all the pieces attributed to him and similar pieces have been attributed to everyone from Old Man Leekya, to Dan Simplicio, to several modern stone workers.
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Wayne Russell said Lookout Point was once owned by the Kelseys of Zuni, then his mother Alma Sue Watson and her husband Dan ran the place until Dan hit the road. Leroy Atkinson picked up the place for a song and had Alma Sue and her son run it for him.
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Zuni Silversmith Dan Simplicio Sr.: Challenging Tradition
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Dan Simplicio Sr. with casting
Simplicio came of age in an era when there were many innovators. Zuni jewelry was still feeling its way, and creative juices were flowing. Leekya Deyuse was experimenting with setting carved stone in silver jewelry; Leo Poblano was creating fine mosaic inlay; Bryant Waatsa was popularizing a style of needlepoint that would become “Zuni Jewelry†to the outside world; and Juan De Dios was perfecting technique for his generation.
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The De Dios style involves silver-mounted stones cantilevered out from the bracelet base, which gives his work a very distinctive look and makes the turquoise the leading element. De Dios apprenticed his nephew Dan along with others who would become famous jewelers of the period.
Dan Simplicio began silversmithing with primitive techniques and limited tools, factors his son thinks contributed to his creativity. “He made his own plate, drew his own wire, everything was done by hand,†says Dan Jr. who is also a metalworker and fine fetish carver.
Simplicio carved and tempered his own stamps from scrap steel. There were swaging troughs cut into his hand-made anvil to make triangle and half-round wire. One of his leaf stamps became almost a signature element of his work. He said later he got the idea for the distinctive leaf from his time in Europe during the war. He was fascinated by the Roman laurel leaf wreaths given to heroes of battles.
To make wire he beat a lump of silver into a thick pencil â€" annealed it to make it soft, and then drew it through a steel plate with a series of graduated holes. The silver had to be softened again for each step of the drawing process. Every piece he created was the result of many, many hours of labor.
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Then Dan combined the red with quality nuggets and his distinctive silver leaves. The result was pure Dan Simplicio and is still easily recognized. Other Zunis like Robert Leekya and Chester Mahooty were influenced by this technique. Leekya is still known for his large nugget sets.
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Simplicio is best known for these free-form pieces, but he worked in pretty much every technique of his day. He was an influential tufa caster and some of his best jewelry had a cast base. Though he mined his own tufa â€" a fine-grained volcanic ash stone â€" near the village of Zuni, he would put more than one design on a block, or carve both sides.
“He had a mine on the north edge of the reservation,†says his son. “It was small and it was destroyed when they built the new road up the hill.â€Â There are several places south of Gallup where good tufa is found.
Though casting heavy silver is considered a Navajo thing, Simplicio’s work was distinctively Zuni for the most part. Many of his existing molds show variations of a lacy flower design found on pottery. He also used some prehistoric forms taken from rock art. Dan Jr. has a charming piece that is either a frog or horny toad.
Like many Native Americans of his generation, Simplicio had at least two birthdays of record: Aug 10, 1911, or maybe 1917. His father was known as Old Man Simplicio and Dan doesn’t know his grandmother’s name. Daniel’s sister, Ruth Calavaza was photographed by Burton Frasher and one of her iconic images, distributed as photo postcards, shows her working on jewelry. Another shows her in traditional costume, taking bread from an outdoor oven.
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Dan Simplicio in World War II
When Dan enlisted in World War II, he was inducted with a lot of Gallup men, including a number of Slavs. They bonded in the service and he wrote letters home for the men who were not literate in English. He won a bronze star with oak cluster for rescuing a number of fellow soldiers under heavy fire, dragging them back to safety one at a time.
Eventually he suffered a terrific wound to his thigh. The Germans were experimenting with metal-clad wooden bullets. It might have been a lead-saving move, but there was also the element of fragmentation. The wooden bullets splintered on impact, creating a messy, dirty wound â€" an early form of biological warfare.
Daniel sat alone in a foxhole for three days with nothing to eat or drink. Though it started to rain, the water he was lying in was too muddy and contaminated with his blood for him to drink. He said later he just kept reciting Hail Marys and Our Fathers. Dan was pretty well out of blood when he was finally picked up.
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Simplicio built himself a stone house in Zuni. “Away from the restrictions of living with the wife’s family, many Zunis found the freedom seductive,†says his son. The Simplicio house became a party zone. Dan Jr. believes the switch to the Anglo type of family unit contributed to alcohol use among the Zuni and other Southwestern tribes. The war had also been a large factor.
Weirdly, the leg kept bothering Dan, reinfecting often. “I remember seeing him lance the wound himself. I was just a kid and it was terrible,â€Â  recalls his son. In 1970 the bullet hole took a hard blow in a scuffle. Dan was taken to the hospital but a blood clot ended his life. Dan Jr. was only thirteen. His mother, Esther Romancito survived her husband by just one year. Dan Jr. and his siblings spent the next years in Albuquerque.
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Dan Simplicio has carved his niche in the history of Southwestern Native jewelry and his contribution isn’t likely to be forgotten. Fortunately, his distinctive work has found its way into museum collections across America and Europe.
Zuni remains still unburied
www.tucsoncitizen.com, 27 June 2003 [cached]
Zuni Pueblo Council member Dan Simplicio said the prospect of reburying ancestors is not a simple thing and that there must be documentation before reburials can be done.
Archaeologists working for the utility unearthed the remains on private land in eastern Arizona last summer while excavating along a proposed rail line associated with the mine.The utility has stored them at the power plant while trying to work out a reburial agreement.
"Leaving them out like that is a real heartache to those of us who know about it," Simplicio said Wednesday.
Simplicio said the pueblo believes the remains are Zuni ancestors because of where they were found.
Museum of Northern Arizona
www.musnaz.org, 20 Nov 2012 [cached]
Zuni tribal member and archaeologist Dan Simplicio will introduce visitors to the complex history of Zuni art, an artistic continuum told through oral traditions.
Join Zuni tribal member and archaeologist ...
www.crowcanyon.org [cached]
Join Zuni tribal member and archaeologist Dan Simplicio and archaeologist Ruth Van Dyke in exploring the southern frontier of the Chaco world.
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Expect a thought-provoking exchange of ideas as Ruth and Dan relate the histories of the southern frontier to the well-defined stages of the Chaco phenomenon.
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Scholars Dr. Ruth Van Dyke (top) and Dan Simplicio (bottom)
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Dan Simplicio is a Zuni tribal member and archaeologist who serves as a consultant to the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center. A former member of the Zuni Tribal Council, Dan led the tribe's successful effort to prevent mining at the sacred Zuni Salt Lake.
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Our comparison of the Chacoan and Cibolan worlds begins here, as Ruth and Dan introduce us to the great houses of "downtown" Chaco.
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Friday, June 6: Returning east through the village of Zuni, we stop at the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center, where Dan introduces us to modern Pueblo life among the A:shiwi (Zuni).
Talon Advertising - contact
www.talonadvertising.com, 9 Feb 2008 [cached]
Dan SimplicioEVP General ManagerP.O. Address 3010P: (505) 870-6192 dan@talonadvertising.com
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