Santa Fe’s Indian Market: Everything You Need To Know

Whether you’re looking for an exclusive new piece for your art collection or are simply interested in a one-of-a-kind experience focused on native culture and art, Indian Market is a unique Santa Fe event. At once a world-famous art market and a bustling festival with entertainment for all ages, Indian Market has a little something for everyone. If you’re visiting Santa Fe in August, it’s an event you won’t want to miss!

What is Indian Market?

Santa Fe’s famous Indian Market takes place each year in mid-August, drawing over 150,000 visitors from around the world. Indian Market attendees come to view and purchase art, participate in the festivities, and engage with contemporary indigenous culture. Disciplines featured in the market include jewelry, pottery, sculpture, textiles, paintings, wooden carvings, beadwork, baskets, and a diverse selection of other arts.

Indian Market showcases the work of over 1,100 native artists from the United States and Canada, representing over 200 federally recognized tribes and First Nations in a competitive juried art show. The event gives visitors and art collectors the opportunity to meet contemporary native artists and to support their work directly. Indian Market also places a special emphasis on the self-representation of native artists, rather than the commodification of native work by outside sources.

Art collectors and novices alike are drawn to the festive atmosphere of Indian Market. Whether you’re looking to snag a one-of-a-kind piece of native art, learn more about native art and culture, or just want to get in on the fun, Indian Market is a unique experience steeped in native New Mexican history, culture, and tradition!

Where: Santa Fe Plaza

When: August 17th 7am-5pm, August 18th 8am-5pm 

Other Info: If you’re planning on driving to Indian Market, parking is limited, and typically costs a flat day rate. Parking garages and lots are situated around the Plaza, with additional parking available in the Railyard district, about a mile away. Indian Market takes place during Santa Fe’s monsoon season, so pack layers and be prepared for rain or shine.

 Other Indian Market Events

While the art on display during Indian Market weekend may be the main draw, there’s a diverse selection of other activities and events leading up to and during the art market. Visitors can sample traditional native foods from a variety of food trucks and stalls, and attend live musical performances, cinema, fashion shows, and more.

Art Shows and Exhibitions

In addition to the main market on Saturday and Sunday, there are a variety of events happening across the city throughout the week leading up to Indian market. These include gallery exhibitions, art shows, and more. If you’re in Santa Fe in the week leading up to Indian Market, don’t miss out on these smaller events!

Native Foods

Whether you’re new to native cuisine or are a fry bread devotee, Indian Market has a little something for everything in terms of food. On the weekend of Indian Market, food trucks and tents serve up a variety of traditional recipes.

Fry bread is an Indian Market staple with a complicated history. Similar to fried dough, the bread consists of flour, sugar, salt, and lard. The recipe originated when the Navajo were forcibly relocated by the United States government away from their ancestral lands in a movement known as “The Long Walk.” They were supplied basic food items like flour and lard in order to make ends meet in an inhospitable environment. Today, fry bread is celebrated as a mark of endurance in the face of adversity and is a staple of Navajo cuisine. Fry bread can be served on its own, with toppings like sugar or honey, or as the base of a Navajo taco.

Frito pie is another staple of Indian Market that usually includes fritos, chile, cheese, and a variety of other ingredients including ground beef, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and jalapenos. This dish reflects the distinctive culture of New Mexico and blends native, Mexican, and Southwestern cuisines to create a unique dish that’s filling and delicious. After a day browsing art stalls under the hot New Mexican sun, a frito pie is the perfect thing for an empty stomach!

At Indian Market, menu items also include tacos, burritos, grilled corn, and plenty of New Mexico’s famous green chile. For desert, try a biscochito, a buttery, crumbly confection that is New Mexico’s state cookie. Whether you’re interested in food steeped in history or are just looking for a bite to eat, Indian Market is sure to have something to strike your fancy!

Live Music

There’s a variety of live music during Indian Market, featuring performances by traditional native groups as well as contemporary musical acts. These performances take place on the Plaza at midday on Saturday and Sunday, and contribute to the festive atmosphere and celebration of indigenous culture that Indian Market is renowned for.

Native Cinema Showcase

Indian Market has come to represent not just tactile art like painting, sculpture, and traditional craftsmanship, but also artistic disciplines such as performance and cinema. In the week leading up to Indian Market, the Native Cinema Showcase features new films produced by native artists. A collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the initiative reflects the growing importance of mediums like film to contemporary native art. 

Traditional and Contemporary Fashion

Held on Sunday morning during Indian Market, the Native American clothing contest showcases traditional and contemporary native clothing, and is a huge draw for all ages! Indian Market also includes an Haute Couture Fashion Show featuring contemporary fashion designed and modeled by native artists.

History of the Indian Market

Indian Market began in 1922 as an “Indian Fair” sponsored by the Museum of New Mexico, and used to be a part of Santa Fe’s annual Fiesta, which takes place later in August. The event started as a way to showcase indigenous art and culture that organizers feared was in danger of being lost. Indian Market has seen a variety of different iterations over the years, growing from a part of the Fiesta celebration to a festival in its own right.

Now organized by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, today Indian Market draws hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world. The event champions both traditional and contemporary native work, allowing visitors to learn more about native artists and their traditions first-hand. Indian Market is also a mecca for art collectors of all stripes, who are even known to stake out tents and stalls early in the morning in order to get first pick of the highly sought after works for sale.

Indigenous Peoples in New Mexico 

While Indian Market celebrates native artists from all over North America, it also pays homage to the particular native peoples and traditions that contribute to the rich fabric of New Mexican culture. New Mexico has the second-highest percentage of Native Americans in the United States, and is home to nineteen pueblos, as well as part of Navajo Nation and two Apache reservations.

Both historically speaking and up until the present day, native New Mexican populations have faced violence, discrimination, and economic precarity. Indian Market celebrates the art and traditions of indigenous peoples, while also acknowledging the negative effects of colonialism and oppression on native communities. The event focuses on encouraging and empowering indigenous artists in a wide variety of artistic mediums. 

 After Indian Market

 After a visit to Santa Fe’s famous Indian Market, many people are left wanting more. Luckily, Santa Fe has a wealth of resources for those interested in learning more about native art and culture.

Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is part of the Museum of New Mexico system, and focuses on both traditional and contemporary native art, from prehistory up until the present day. The museum’s collections place a special emphasis on the native peoples of New Mexico. The museum is also home to the Laboratory for Anthropology, founded by John D. Rockefeller in 1927, whose mission is to study the cultures and traditions of indigenous people in the Southwest United States.

Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

If you’re looking to explore contemporary art further after Indian Market, look no further than the Museum of Contemporary Native Art. The museum curates the work of a wide variety of contemporary North American indigenous artists, and organizes a variety of different exhibitions each year. The museum is a part of Institute of American Indian Arts, which also offers classes and degree programs in Art History, Museum Studies, Indigenous Studies, and more.

Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian

Located on Museum Hill, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian focuses on both historic and contemporary native art. They have a world-renowned collection of Navajo and Pueblo jewelry, as well as a variety of exhibitions that showcase living native artists as well as historic items and artifacts.

Poeh Museum and Cultural Center 

The Poeh Museum and Cultural Center promotes the culture of the Pueblos of northern New Mexico, focusing particularly on the preservation and celebration of Pueblo art and culture. While Pueblo culture and traditions were disrupted by European colonization and subjugation, the Poeh Museum now seeks to revitalize and encourage the preservation of traditional culture, language, and art. 

School for Advanced Research

The School for Advanced Research focuses on innovative social science and Native American Art. SAR offers tours of its extensive collection of art on Wednesdays and Fridays, including pottery, textiles, jewelry, painting, basketry, and drums. They also offer a variety of classes, lectures, and symposia designed to increase understanding of and appreciation for native cultures and arts.

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