Artist Bird Mountain sells homemade buffalo bone jewelry in Pottawatomie County

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star
For 28 years, Bird Mountain has carved and sold jewelry made out of buffalo bone at local pow wows and festivals.

For over two decades, Bird Mountain, an artist and Native American, has been making jewelry out of buffalo bone and selling it.

According to Mountain, ever since she was young, she's been an artist and now she makes various forms of jewelry including earrings, necklaces and bracelets.

"I'm a bone carver and I started about 28 years and I go get buffalo bone and I carve out designs and use different stones," Mountain said. "It's unique."

The jeweler said she initially began learning the art of bone carving from the elders in the tribe she's enrolled in, which is Red Lake located in Minnesota, although she claims Dakota.

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"I quit drinking and doing drugs and I had a relative that asked me if I would like to learn how to do this work," Mountain said. "It was my self healing."

She said she started making jewelry for the women and the men in her community.

"I pray with my work and it's expanded to a lot of people that need that base in healing so that's why I started," she said.

For the last five years, Mountain has lived in Oklahoma City and sells her work mostly at pow wows and local festivals, including here in Pottawatomie County.

The different tribes and people are among the things she loves about living in Oklahoma.

Many members of various tribes have purchased Mountain's work as well as those who attend the festivals she visits.

"I've gotten a lot of compliments. I've heard people say 'I've never seen this before,"' she said. "It's really unique. It's beautiful work."

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Over the years, Mountain said she has honed her skills as a bone carver and jewelry maker by teaching herself, experimenting and learning from others.

The artist explained bone carving is a Native American tradition.

"It goes way back in history. They used water, stone and things to make the jewelry a long time ago," Mountain said.

Now there are tools such as files and drills that make it easier, she said, but it's still a difficult art form that takes time.

"It takes me all together about three days to make one piece if I get it perfect," she said. "It really helps me."

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Selling Bird's Jewelry is Mountain's full-time job and main source of income, but she loves it and it keeps her busy.

The jeweler will make custom orders as well such as bolo ties, chokers and jewelry sets.

Mountain finds the buffalo bone she uses for her art from other tribes in the state.

This is an aspect she enjoys of her job as she gets to meet many different people who also understand her values and culture.

"I am a traditional woman and I've had a lot of elders who've taught me a lot of things and I know there's a lot of traditional people down here too," Mountain said. "And it doesn't matter what tribe we are, we're all related."

The jewelry maker said she makes her pieces outside her house because she uses drills and other tools.

"When it rains I have to quit. When it snows I have to quit," Mountain said. "You don't want sand in your house because bones smell really bad."

For Mountain, the best part of selling her artwork at events is meeting and visiting with people.

"It doesn't matter what culture you come from, if you're Indian, white, black, Asian or whatever. People can come and talk to you and share things," Mountain said. "People are really interesting if you talk to them."

Going forward, Mountain hopes to teach someone else the art of bone carving and jewelry making.

"I'm looking for a young lady because when me and my cousin first started we had to ask the men to show us what they do with the bone," Mountain said. "They didn't want to show us because we were women."

The artist wants to pass on her knowledge to other women so they will have the ability to carve themselves.

For more information on her work or to request a custom order, contact Bird's Jewelry at (605) 469-6147.