The annual Santa Fe Indian Market is creeping closer on this summer’s calendar of events, and participants in the 93rd annual festival are both excited and anxious. In the past, the festival has been one of the most popular gathering spots for Native American artists and art collectors. But as a recent NPR article notes, the value of the Market isn’t just that it provides high-quality Native American art – the value of the Market is that it does so legally, and while protecting the culture of America’s earliest people.
Native American artifacts sold illegally have been known to come with price tags in the thousands, and one auction house in Paris last year expected to bring in approximately $1 million from the sales of 24 Hopi religious items and artifacts, before the Annenberg Foundation intervened and returned the items to the Hopi tribe. Stories like this one are, regrettably, more common than most people realize.
And this is precisely why festivals like the Santa Fe Indian Market are so important – there is clearly a market for Native American art, and there are clearly dedicated collectors across the world who understand its value, but art sales are, by nature, very difficult to regulate. Not only does the entire Santa Fe area benefit from the huge surge in tourism during the weekend of the Market, but Native artists have the opportunity to share their cultures with the world. Whether attendees wish to invest in valuable art or simply want to find tasteful home decorations, festivals like this teach buyers to be respectful and careful when handling and displaying art from other cultures.
The Santa Fe Indian Market will also be joined by a competing Native arts festival, but rather than being worried about the competing market, industry experts seem to be thrilled that there is such a high demand for the art and they are hoping that Santa Fe will be able to accommodate both cultural celebrations. Industry experts and festival attendees seem optimistic that Santa Fe’s rich cultural background will only continue to grow — and to do so in a way that’s respectful to the original peoples.