Born on a reservation in Canada in 1912, Silverheels was a member of the Mohawk tribe. He was a star lacrosse player and boxer before becoming a stuntman in 1938. In 1949, he began the role of Tonto in The Lone Ranger. He became an outspoken Indian activist and respected teacher within the Indian acting community. He was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1993.