This past weekend, the Santa Fe Indian Market celebrated its 100th anniversary, and the annual event—where Indigenous artists across North America take over downtown Santa Fe and showcase their latest works for sale—has only continued to grow in scope. Originally an intimate event held indoors, the market was once specifically focused on reviving the art of Pueblo pottery-making, but today it has since evolved to include beadwork, quillwork, textiles, ceramics, and many other mediums—all from artists of different tribes, styles, and locations. Whether traditional or contemporary in feel, each piece tells a different story and maintains a specific aspect of cultural craftwork. (Today, the market is run by the Southwestern Association of Indian Arts, known as SWAIA).
This year, Indigenous beauty was on full display more than ever before. Inside the 668 booths, which lined the streets of Santa Fe’s downtown plaza, more than 800 artists displayed and sold their new wares, some of which took months—or the whole calendar year—to produce. Highlights included one-of-a-kind works such as Pat Pruitt’s titanium feather necklaces; Maria Samora’s sleek silver rings and cuffs; Jill Kaasteen’s whimsical pickle-shaped medallions, as featured on the hit series Reservation Dogs; Jontay Kahm’s sculptural goose-feather dresses; and Elias Jade Not Afraid’s leather cape embellished with bull-elk ivory, dentalium shells, ermine tails, and spikes.
Fashionable visitors—both Indigenous and non-Indigenous—wore their best turquoise jewelry and beadwork while browsing these latest assortments. The many serious (and wealthy) international collectors are known to line up at their favorite artists’ booths at the crack of dawn. Many patrons also showed up in style for the IllumiNative: Indigenous Futures event at the nearby La Fonda hotel, where special panel discussions were held with appearances from Indigenous Hollywood stars—including Prey’s Amber Midthunder, Dark Winds’s Zahn McClarnon, and Rutherford Falls’s Jana Schmieding.
Native innovation was also apparent on the runways during the event’s two fashion shows, where 14 Indigenous designers put forward their new collections fusing the old with the new. At Sunday’s showcase, which was spearheaded by SWAIA’s fashion-show producer Amber-Dawn Bear Robe, Navajo designer Orlando Dugi showed a full new assortment of menswear, made up of lace button-ups and hand-knit striped wool tops. Jamie Okuma presented her new line of couture, including graphic, ribbon-style gowns modeled by Dark Winds star Jessica Matten; Lauren Good Day’s playful prints—done on accessible leggings and bomber jackets—were also modeled by Indigenous supermodel Quannah Chasinghorse and Reservation Dogs star D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai.
Many of the artists at this year’s event agree that the market’s survival over 100 years is especially poignant. Despite systemic discrimination—including when Indigenous people were forced into boarding schools and denied the right to practice their cultural traditions—Indigenous artists have prevailed and continued to honor their heritage. It’s a privilege that’s not lost on today’s crop of talent. “As an artist, I put so much pressure on myself to put out the best collection I could this year,” says Okuma, who has been showing at the market since the late ’90s with her mother, beadwork artist and painter Sandra Okuma. “I was grateful to be here for the centennial. The energy and excitement was there.” Dugi echoes the sentiment. “It’s 100 years of Native fashion and art, and to be a part of the celebration, I had to show something that was helping to push forward another 100 years.”