Jay Silverheels was a First Nations actor. He was well known for his role as Tonto, the faithful Native American companion of the character, The Lone Ranger in a long-running American western television series. Silverheels was born Harold J. Smith on the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation, near Brantford, Ontario, Canada, one of 11 children of a Canadian Mohawk tribal chief and military officer, Major George Smith. Silverheels excelled in athletics andlacrosse before leaving home to travel around North America. In the 1930s, he played indoor lacrosse as Harry Smith with the "Iroquois" of Rochester, New York in the North American Amateur Lacrosse Association. He lived for a time in Buffalo, New York, and in 1938 placed second in the Middleweight class of the Golden Gloves tournament.
Silverheels achieved his greatest fame as Tonto on The Lone Ranger. The fictional story line maintains that a small group of Texas Rangers, except for The Lone Ranger, were massacred. The Lone Ranger and Tonto then ride throughout the West to assist those challenged by the lawless element. Their expenses and bullets are provided through a silver mine owned by The Lone Ranger, who also names his horse "Silver". Being irreplaceable in his role, Silverheels appeared in film sequels: The Lone Ranger (1956) and The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958).
When The Lone Ranger television series ended, Silverheels found himself firmly typecast as an American Indian. On January 6, 1960, he portrayed an Indian fireman trying to extinguish a forest fire in the episode "Leap of Life" in the syndicated series, Rescue 8, starring Jim Davis and Lang Jeffries.