Did Native Americans actively or passively seek out and/or value gold prior to the arrival of Europeans?

Presumably they were not actively mining for gold. But did they seek it out (perhaps in river beds & streams)? If they did not actively search for it like the later Europeans, did they any special value on gold?

I'm particularly interested in Native American groups in the North American West between, say, 1400-1800 AD. My searches so far have turned up some information about pre-Columbian Natives in South America, and plenty about the impact of the Gold Rush of the 1800s on Native American tribes, but very little about Native North American groups during the late Woodland period.

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    – MCW
    Feb 17, 2019 at 19:22
  • Gold in pre-columbian America.
    – MCW
    Feb 17, 2019 at 19:26
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    @MarkC.Wallace massive thanks for that link. Great article. Feb 18, 2019 at 15:23

1 Answer 1


Before European contact, copper and not gold "overwhelmingly predominates the metallurgical landscape," in the Eastern Woodlands.

That doesn't mean gold was absolutely absent and unknown however. Apparently the following article has some information on gold on pages 3-5 but I do not have access to it:

Halsey, J. (1996). "Without forge or crucible: Aboriginal native American use of metals and metallic ores in the Eastern Woodlands." The Michigan Archaeologist, 14(1), 1–58

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    @user32121 Fixed, thanks.
    – Brian Z
    Feb 18, 2019 at 1:32
  • Perhaps copper being about 200 times more plentiful in the Earth's crust might have something to do with it being predominant - but that's irrelevant to the question. I see no attempt to answer the actual question. Feb 18, 2019 at 1:34
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    @PieterGeerkens I disagree. Copper doesn’t predominate the archeology of the Incas or the Aztecs. The relative absence of sources referring to gold in the Eastern Woodlands is significant.
    – Brian Z
    Feb 18, 2019 at 2:55
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    I might be using the term "Woodland Period" incorrectly, but my question is really mainly about the Western (southwest, pacific northwest, mountain west, Midwest) rather than Eastern regions of North America. Nonetheless, the article may have some useful information, I'll check it out. Thanks.
    – Brian Lacy
    Feb 19, 2019 at 5:05
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    Ah, I get it now. Formative stage is the less geographically specific term. You may be interested to note that gold working in Peru apparently dates back even earlier, to the Terminal Archaic, which was well before copper. But I'm not sure you'll find anything in the Formative period north of Mexico.
    – Brian Z
    Feb 19, 2019 at 12:48

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