Indian Market, the premier event of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA), brings throngs of visitors to the Santa Fe Plaza and surrounding streets each year to see traditional and contemporary arts and crafts by Native peoples from across the United States and Canada. The event brings an estimated 120,000 visitors to Santa Fe and more than $100 million in revenue to the state annually. This year, expect no different. The streets will be lined with booths and jam-packed with people browsing Native wares, which include a wide variety of artworks, such as pottery, paintings, basketry, stonework, photography, beadwork, and quillwork.
Mikayla Patton is a recent graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts. Now the Lakota artist is taking part in Native Visions, the annual Native group show at Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art, opening Friday, Aug. 16 and timed to coincide with Indian Market weekend (Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 17 and 18, on the Santa Fe Plaza).
Nearly 1,000 artists from more than 220 federally recognized U.S. tribes and Canadian First Nations peoples populate the 667 booths. They come from the 19 regional pueblos of New Mexico, Apache tribes, and the Navajo Nation, as well as from California, the Pacific Northwest, the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountain West, the Midwest, and other areas. It’s the largest and most prestigious fair of its kind in the nation.
The SWAIA-produced Indian Market is a juried event, and its purview is to present superlative examples of Indian arts, including Zuni fetishes, Hopi kachinas, Acoma pots, Navajo (Diné) weavings, Kwakwaka’wakw blankets, Lakota buckskin dresses, and Kiowa beaded objects, among other arts and crafts.
Indian Market started in 1922 as an outgrowth of the Santa Fe Fiesta. It was founded by the Museum of New Mexico, which sponsored the event (then called the Indian Fair) until 1926, when the New Mexico Association on Indian Affairs took over. That organization was originally formed to help combat the U.S. Senate’s proposed Bursum Bill, which would have illegally given large swaths of tribal lands in New Mexico to Spanish and Anglo-American squatters. In 1959, the group changed its name to the Southwestern Association on Indian Affairs and dropped its focus on political advocacy. Planning the annual Indian Market became its members’ primary activity.
A seductively complex symmetry characterizes the designs that Davis Coonsis paints on his handmade yellow pine benches and chairs. He opted to show at Free Indian Market this year because there are no application or booth rental fees. It's held 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17 and Sunday, Aug. 18, at the Scottish Rite Center, 463 Paseo de Peralta, 505-982-4414; free admission.
Once confined solely to the portal of the Palace of the Governors, the event saw rapid growth between 1970 and 1980, by which time booths lined all four sides of the Santa Fe Plaza. Now, with the number having doubled in size since 1980, booths stretch up Washington Avenue from the Plaza to Marcy Street; along Lincoln Avenue from the Plaza to Federal Place; along Palace Avenue from the corner of Sheridan Avenue to Cathedral Place; and along San Francisco Street from Lincoln to Cathedral.
But the market offers much more than just artists’ booths. A highlight this year is the annual gala, which takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17, at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center (201 W. Marcy St.). “What we’ve done this year is morphed our gala to have a theme, and it’s ‘Rise and Remember: Honoring the Resilience of Native Women,’ ” said Ira Wilson, SWAIA’s executive director. “We’ll have award-winning hoop dancers. Shandien LaRance will perform. Joy Harjo will be doing poetry. We’ve had artists paint drums for a silent auction.”
It isn’t so easy to gather the porcupine quills used for traditional Native American art, especially if you’re not willing to kill the animal first.
Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), who is the first Native woman to represent New Mexico in Congress, is the gala’s guest of honor. Proceeds from the hand drums sold in the silent auction, which were painted by Haaland, Harjo — the nation’s first Native American poet laureate — and notable Native female artists, will be shared with the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, an Albuquerque-based organization. “I think it’s going to be an incredible event, honoring women and the strength of women — those from the past, those who are still with us, and those who are championing our youth,” Wilson said.
Tickets for the gala start at $225 per person ($100 for those who attend only the 6 p.m. cocktail reception and auction) and are available online at swaia.org.
Performances take place all weekend on the Plaza Stage, starting at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17, with Native American flutist Robert Tree Cody and ending on Sunday with a 4 p.m. dance performance by Larry Yazzie and the Native Pride Dancers.
Navajo artist Robyn Tsinnajinnie isn’t too worried about backlash from more traditional tribal members about her subject matter or the humor in her paintings.
Across Santa Fe, Native-themed gallery shows coincide with Indian Market. The annual exhibition at Blue Rain Gallery (544 S. Guadalupe St.) features work by Lummi Nation glass artist Dan Friday; Santa Clara Pueblo potter Jody Naranjo; Osage, Kaw, and Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux ledger artist Chris Pappan; and others. Shiprock Santa Fe (53 Old Santa Fe Trail) presents work by Hopi jeweler Verma Nequatewa and beadwork by Arapaho/Seneca artist Ken Williams Jr. And Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art (558 Canyon Road) presents Native Visions, a group show of work by Wiyot painter Rick Bartow (1946-2016) and by the collaborative team of Cochiti Pueblo potter Lisa Holt and Santo Domingo Pueblo painter Harlan Reano, among others.
Not to be outdone, IM: EDGE, SWAIA’s curated exhibition of contemporary Native art, takes place at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 16; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 17; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 18. The show features innovative and cutting-edge work beyond the limits of the main market. IM: EDGE has been an annual feature of Indian Market since 2015.
In addition to Indian Market and gallery shows, Free Indian Art Market takes place at the Scottish Rite Center (463 Paseo de Peralta) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both weekend days. An alternative showcase for Native artists, Free Indian Market was established in 2018 to provide a venue for artists not juried into the main event, many of them elders who were longtime exhibitors at Indian Market but were not invited back when SWAIA ended its tenure policy in 2017.
Except for the Indian Market gala, all these events are free. For more information, visit the website for Indian Market (swaia.org) and Free Indian Market (santafescottishrite.org/santa-fe-free-indian-market).
On the pages that follow, Pasatiempo presents one featured artist from Indian Market, IM: EDGE, Free Indian Market, and the related gallery show at Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art. It’s just a taste of the diverse work, art, and people you’ll encounter during the city’s biggest, Native-themed showcase of the year. ◀