Kalle Benallie
Indian Country Today

The Santa Fe Indian Market has made its way back after taking a year off due to the pandemic.

However, the popular event will look a little different compared to past years.

The event is billed as “the world’s largest and most highly acclaimed Native American arts show and as New Mexico’s largest attended annual weekend event,” according to the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts. Usually, artists from across the country come to Sante Fe to display their art.

The market used to be free but is now ticketed this year. In addition, artist booths are limited and fencing will be placed around the event area. The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, which oversees the market, made their rules prior to New Mexico relaxing their mass gathering mandates, according to its website.

“Due to [the] disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths per capita in the Navajo Nation and many others where our artists call home, we made this decision to ensure the safety of our artists and control the crowds,” the association said.

(Related: Indigenous Film+ Online 2021)

And since it’s a fenced event, a number of tickets sold are dependent on the fire marshal and the city of Santa Fe restrictions. Usually, 1,000 booths per artist are allowed but that number has been cut down to 500 booths per artist. The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, although, has stated an artist is allowed to share a booth with another if they wish.

The association ticketed this year’s market “to help gather contract tracing information and crowd control as a part of its Covid Safe Protocols,” it said. The most current CDC and state guidelines regarding face masks and social distancing will be in effect, according to the website.

Another way they are controlling the visitors is by having wristbands that specify if it’s a weekend or day admittance. However, the tickets can only be scanned once and there are designated times that they can enter and leave the area.

Lyndon Tsosie, Navajo, has been participating in the market as a jeweler for about 26 years and has been a jeweler for 31.

He was one of the approximately 500 artists that was waitlisted. However, he was able to get a booth with a friend who offered to share.

Tsosie said those who were given a booth were based on the juried point system that the association has previously used. The higher the points, the better chance of receiving a booth.

The Santa Fe Indian Market isn’t the only show in town this weekend.

He said some of the artists who were waitlisted have gone to open-to-the-public events in Santa Fe like Pathways: Native Arts Festival at the Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino, the 2021 Artists Market at the Wheelwright Museum and the Free Indian Market. The events are all occurring around the same time as the Santa Fe Indian Market, with the Free Indian Market happening just a couple blocks north.

The Santa Fe Artists Market is also occurring on the same weekend near the Santa Fe Railyard Plaza. It is also a free event.

“If that’s more successful than hopefully SWAIA, the current administration, will open their eyes and figure what to do next year,” Tsosie said.

He said that charging tickets may be another way for the association to make money, but he knows there are people who are willing and unwilling to pay that.

“It’s a 50/50 chance,” he said. “I’m pretty sure people who are coming to Santa Fe will do their best to go to all three shows despite the fee from SWAIA.”

Tsosie added that he wishes there was more communication from the board and organization. It left a lot of questions about why some were chosen based on a score, to their discretion, instead of a lottery system. But he does see that they are trying to do their best based on the circumstances.

“They’re only trying to do what they think is best in how to run things. Although, I would have done it differently,” he said. “Hopefully we don’t have to have a fence around Indian Market, and they don’t have to pay to see the art.”

He said although he has criticisms about the organization and board, it has taken him to many places and helped fund his children’s schooling.

“SWAIA has given me a beautiful life to make a living with my art,” he said.

And he doesn’t know what to expect for the new changes and the world the market is now living in.

“I’m looking forward to the show with great caution, and I hope I make lots of money,” Tsosie said.

IF YOU GO…

99th Santa Fe Indian Market
DATE: Saturday, Aug. 21 - Sunday, Aug. 22
LOCATION: 121 Sandoval St.
ADMISSION: Tickets here
MORE INFO: Website, schedule of events

Pathways: Native Arts Festival
DATE: Friday, Aug. 20- Sunday, Aug. 22
LOCATION: Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino,
30 BUFFALO THUNDER TRAIL
ADMISSION: Free
MORE INFO: Website, Facebook

2021 Artists Market
DATE: Friday, Aug. 20- Saturday, Aug. 21
LOCATION: Wheelwright Museum,
704 Camino Lejo
ADMISSION: Free
MORE INFO: Website, Facebook

Santa Fe Artists Market
DATE: Every Saturday from March to December
LOCATION: Santa Fe Railyard Plaza,
1612 Alcaldesa St
ADMISSION: Free
MORE INFO: Website, Facebook

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Correction: The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts was correctly spelled.