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A rare and historic “UITA 22” Navajo silver and copper cuff

bracelet, Kirk’s Trading Post, Manuelito, NM, c.1930’s-1940’s

This striking and unusual piece was made in the 1930’s-1940’s under the auspices of the United Indian Trader’s Association, or UITA, an organization begun in 1931 by a group of influential Indian Traders with the specific purpose of upholding and guaranteeing the highest possible standards of quality, traditional craftsmanship and authenticity in Native American arts and crafts. Individual UITA-member trading posts were assigned specific numeric codes and jewelry and other native crafts made there were inspected and only those which met the association’s rigid guidelines could be marked with the organization’s coveted stamp and could then be sold at a premium.

The UITA organization lasted only a relatively short time and that, combined with its extremely strict standards and correspondingly low output, means that UITA pieces are not easy to come by today and the best of them, such as this bracelet, are highly collectible and command a premium. Of the 40 UITA numeric designations originally assigned to various traders, the identities of only 17 are known today due to the fact that the offices in Gallup, New Mexico where UITA’s records were stored were destroyed in a fire.

The old Mike Kirk Trading Post, Manuelito, NM, circa 1935.

Photo copyright by The Pomona Public Library, Frasher Foto postcard collection.

A merchandise token from Kirk’s Trading Post.

Photo copyright by Obscuro-tee.

This bracelet is most beautifully designed and made in the painstaking style of mixed metals where nine thin copper panels have been “applied” onto and soldered into the bracelet’s silver shank. Interspersed between the copper panels are silver panels decorated with finely rendered stamp work designs. Successfully executing such a technically demanding and sophisticated design using two different metals is extremely difficult work to do and indicates the hand of an extremely accomplished jeweler indeed.

The bracelet measures just shy of 3/4” in continuous width all the way around the shank. The bracelet’s inner circumference end-to-end is 5 1/2" and the gap between the terminals is 1” for a total interior circumference of

6 1/2". The bracelet weighs a substantial, yet comfortable 37 grams or 1 1/4 ounces. It is in excellent vintage condition with minor age-appropriate wear and it is properly marked “UITA22” on the interior. This is a wonderful quality, extremely historic piece with a classic and elegant feel.

Price $1,450

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This wonderful bracelet is marked “UITA22”, which is the designation assigned to the famous Mike Kirk Trading Post in Manuelito, New Mexico, about 17 miles west of Gallup, New Mexico, near the Arizona border, on the famed old “Mother Road”, U.S. Route 66. Mike Kirk was an important and influential individual in Southwest history. He cut a flamboyant figure in his customary Ten-gallon Stetson hat astride his pinto pony. Kirk was one of the the original creators of the annual Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial and one of its most significant promoters. Kirk also was the first director of Flagstaff, Arizona’s All-Indian Pow-Wow.