Skip to main content

Pauly Denetclaw

A century ago, Indigenous people in what is now known as the United States were not recognized as citizens.

A century ago, a New Mexico legislator tried unsuccessfully to pass a bill that would strip Indigenous nations in the state of their rights to water and land. Indigenous children were taken from their communities and placed in federal Indian boarding schools in an attempt to forcibly assimilate them into western culture. Today, these actions meet the United Nations’ definition of genocide.

This was the historical backdrop to the inaugural year of the Santa Fe Indian Market in 1922.

The yearly celebration of Indigenous art and culture has expanded since its inception, beyond what could have been imagined.

“In its beginning, Native American artists were not allowed to sell,” said Kim Peone, executive director of Southwestern Association for Indian Arts. “At that time, the goods were collected from tribes throughout the Southwest, the Plains and through the north, she said. “This was a collection by anthropological patriarchs who were collecting and coming. Their intent was not only to preserve, because they thought we were going to be extinct, but it was to create tourism in Santa Fe, New Mexico.”

The event has since slowly evolved.

“So, when you see its progression in 1938, when Natives were able to sell and be a part of this market,” said Peone, Colville Confederated Tribes and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. “When you look at that era, I think it shifted the organization.”

Like this story? Support our work with a $5 or $10 contribution today. Contribute to the nonprofit ICT.

While the market was by and for white collectors in the beginning, today both SWAIA staff and its board of directors consists mostly of Indigenous people. While the market hasn’t expanded beyond North America, it does include Canadian artists now.

The art market is an international event that brings some 100,000 people from all over the world to Northern New Mexico, the homelands of several different Pueblos. It’s the largest juried Indigenous art market in the world and has artists from over 100 different Indigenous nations compete.

Piersten Doctor, Diné, is among the featured artists at the Sovereign Santa Fe exhibit at Santa Fe Indian Market, Aug. 20-22, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Piersten Doctor)
Scroll to Continue

Read More

The prestigious Best of Show begins this afternoon and into the evening. Tomorrow, the market opens at 8 a.m. New this year is, Illuminative: Indigenous Future,” an exclusive event will feature Indigenous art curated by Cara Romero, Chemehuevi, and panels that celebrates Indigenous representation in film and television, voting rights, women, and climate justice. It will be held at the La Fonda Hotel in the Santa Fe Plaza. The Native American Clothing Contest and the Indigenous Fashion Show will also happen as usual.

The market isn’t the only event happening in Santa Fe this weekend. It isn’t even the only art market. Just off the plaza, at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts is the 2022 IAIA Student and Recent Graduate Art Market.

This market will feature work from 25 students or recent graduates from the Institute of American Indian Arts, one of the top art institutions in the country. It’s open from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

A quick six minute walk north from the museum toward South Federal Place, you will find the Free Indian Market. This art market was created in 2018 after SWAIA didn’t invite back some 350 distinguished artists who had been a part of Indian Market for up to 50 years. These elders in previous years were guaranteed booth space and didn’t have to reapply every year. The rules changed and they were required to reapply for a booth, many of them didn’t get one.

Thus, Free Indian Market was born. It was small in the beginning, just 68 artists, but has quickly grown to nearly 600 artists this year. This market is international and will feature Indigenous artists from all over the world.

Sign up for ICT’s free newsletter. 

“We included all Indigenous artists in the western hemisphere. So far, we've never had any artists from the eastern hemisphere ask us to be in the show but we would entertain that as well. It's really for Indigenous people,” Gregory Schaaf, the co-founder of the market, told ICT.

The Free Indian Market is 90 percent artists from the southwest and 10 percent artists from around the world. This was the original makeup of the Santa Fe Indian Market and something the board of directors, mostly Indigenous elders from the Southwest, wanted to maintain.

The Free Indian Market provides free booth space and the artists invited are curated by the board of directors.

If you want to get away from the plaza, there will also be Pathways: The Indigenous Arts Festival at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino just outside of Santa Fe. It will feature panels, dance performances, live music and a fashion show.

These are just a few of the events and markets happening in Santa Fe this weekend. To see what else is happening check here.

New ICT logo

Our stories are worth telling. Our stories are worth sharing. Our stories are worth your support. Contribute $5 or $10 today to help ICT carry out its critical mission. Sign up for ICT’s free newsletter.