Where the Past is Present
The evolution of Santa Fe Indian Market. By Susan Sorg
Just like the phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” the same holds true for history: It’s all in the eye, or context, of the beholder. So it is with Santa Fe Indian Market, as it celebrates its 97th year. Younger artists and marketgoers may think the event which draws over 100,000 attendees has always been this big. Artists in their 60s, 70s, or older, however, remember their own youth, when hippies and Madison Avenue “discovered” Native art at this juried art show.
Indian Market, or the First Annual Southwest Indian Fair, as it was called, was held in conjunction with Santa Fe Fiesta in September, 1922. What started as a weekend showcasing the new San Ildefonso black-onblack pottery (made specifically to sell to tourists) was where it all really began.
By 1934, the Indian Fair committee became the New Mexico Association on Indian Affairs, and the growth of this annual gathering featuring Native arts continued. That evolved in 1959 into the Southwestern Association on Indian Affairs, or SWAIA, which is still in place today. SWAIA made the move in 1962 to separate Indian Market from the Santa Fe Fiesta as the annual Native arts weekend worked on establishing its own identity.
Another identity was also taking shape that decade as youthful voices around the world announced they were blazing their own trail as a generation. Businesses and advertisers saw a fresh, untapped market and hopped on that bandwagon, which was more likely a VW van painted wildly with flowers. As hippies and Hollywood discovered Native art, others took note. The scenery was certainly becoming familiar. The classic anti-establishment movie Easy Rider was filmed in nearby Taos in 1968 and released in 1969 as this new generational wave started cresting.
Former SWAIA executive director Bruce Bernstein says while there’s always been interest, it was knowledge about Native people that grew out of the 1960s with hippies and the environmental movement. “Julie Christie, she wears a concha belt on one cover
1. Zia pottery vendors under Palace of Governors Portal, 1938. Photo courtesy of Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, Negative 135047. 2. Portrait of Pahponee, an award winning Kickapoo potter. 3. Julie Christie appears inLife Magazine wearing a concha belt.