Experience the Magic of the Santa Fe Indian Market: Native American Art, Culture, and Celebration

Experience the Magic of the Santa Fe Indian Market: Native American Art, Culture, and Celebration

The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) recently concluded another successful Santa Fe Indian Market with crowds of well over 150,000 people on each day of the two-day market. More than 940 artists from the United States and Canada competed in the juried art competition and showcased at the world-famous Santa Fe Indian Market.  

Jennifer Tafoya, Santa Clara Pueblo, was voted “Best of Show” for the 101st Santa Fe Indian Market in the Pottery Classification. Tafoya’s submission was a black etched pot with a mirco-stone inlay that featured dinosaurs and was aimed at environmental degradation in New Mexico. Tafoya accepted her award with tears and a heartfelt, “thank you so much” on Friday, August 18, 2023 at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. 

native american art at sante fe indian market 7

There are 10 juried Classifications in the juried art competition including Jewelry, Pottery, 2-Dimensional which includes Painting, Drawing, Graphics and Photography, Wooden Pueblo Figurative Carving & Sculpture, Sculpture, Textiles, Diverse Arts, Beadwork and Quillwork, Youth (ages 10 through 17), and Basketry. Each classification has various divisions, and each division is awarded a first and second-place ribbon with the entire classification. Winners in each Classification are found on SWAIA’s website. 

The total number of art submissions for the 101st Santa Fe Indian Market was more than 1,500, slightly lower than the 100th. Artists are permitted to submit up to three original pieces of art and can include collaborations with other artists. The difficulty is not only the number of submissions but the magnificence of the art. Some pieces defy their classifications and are changing the boundaries of fine Indian art. 

Applicants submit images of their artwork including measurements and descriptions of their work to a panel organized by SWAIA. Each category of art has three to five jurors, who are chosen by the organization, and then grade or score each submission in a category. If they score high, they are invited to showcase and compete in the world-famous Santa Fe Indian Market. 

Not all artists submit though, for a number of reasons, including arriving in Santa Fe a couple of days before the market. Nonetheless, the market is an opportunity for people to get up close and personal with some of the most renowned artists in the world. Over the last few years, more artists from Southeastern, Eastern Coastal Tribes, and First Nations of Canada have been submitting, largely due to SWAIA outreach. Previously, artists from those regions were largely excluded from the competition. SWAIA intends to expand outreach to other regions, including the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes area over the next year. 

What to Expect

Crowds will be in the hundreds of thousands at the Santa Fe Indian Market. Hotels in Santa Fe are usually sold out months in advance for the Indian Market weekend, and accommodations should be arranged as soon as possible. Because of the size of the crowds, cell phone service is sporadic and unreliable. 

Restaurants around the plaza often have a waiting list of an hour or more, but have the ability to text a patron making a reservation for a table of 4 or 6. There are limited food and snack vendors, under 5, in the market area so lines for vendors making Indian tacos, frybread, or other sought-after street food will be long. 

People travel from all over the world and are eager to meet others. The energy is positive, happy, and celebratory—people you may not know will approach you to say hello with a smile. There will be many familiar faces from mass media including popular television and film productions, sports, or other popular mediums. They are accessible and approachable to say hello and to take pictures, but ask first. 

Several street blocks are closed off on Saturday and Sunday of Indian Market, so prepare to walk, or be on your feet, for hours at a time. There is a limited use of restrooms, but SWAIA organizes portable toilets (port-a-potty) around the market. Bringing a personal water canteen is helpful, but there are street vendors and fundraisers selling water out of coolers on the streets. 

Things to See

The Santa Fe Indian Market is free and open to the public. You do not need a ticket to attend the market and you do not need to make reservations to attend. But to get the most out of your Indian Market visit, consider attending ticketed events. 

SWAIA organizes a variety of events celebrating its artists and community. From the “Best of Show” Ceremony to its renowned fashion shows, there is something to see and experience in traditional and contemporary Indigenous art and culture. These events require tickets and include a more intimate setting inside the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. For a full list of events, stay tuned to SWAIA’s announcement on their website, www.swaia.org. 

There are many other events during the week approaching the Santa Fe Indian Market including film showings, discussions on art, arts and crafts festivals, fashion shows, concerts, and other gatherings. Organizations strive to provide as much information as possible during your stay in Santa Fe and there are many magazines and other print publications available at many locations throughout the city to see what is scheduled for the week and weekend of Indian Market. 

A popular event at Indian Market is the Native American Clothing Contest, which takes place on Sunday morning on Plaza Stage. A juried competition of who is wearing the best traditional wear is broken down by categories and age groups and usually brings large crowds to the main stage on Sunday morning.         

Market Etiquette

Do not try to barter, or talk down prices for the artist’s work. Many of the artists are sought out by private collectors from all over the world and their prices reflect a lifetime commitment to their craft. Avoid wearing large bags, as crowds are large and unexpected movement could push you into an artist’s work and, sometimes, damage to art can occur. Each artist is approachable for conversation, but keep conversations to a minimum, as many others come to see and speak with artists. 

Sante Fe Indian Market Photos

Last Updated on October 10, 2023 by Paul G

About Darren Thompson

Darren Thompson (Ojibwe/Tohono O’odham) is a Native American flute player and writer from the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe Reservation in Northern Wisconsin. He contributes to Native Peoples Magazine, Native News Online, Native Max Magazine and Powwows.com. For more information please visit www.darrenthompson.net

3 Comments on “Experience the Magic of the Santa Fe Indian Market: Native American Art, Culture, and Celebration”

  • Avatar for Telkom Jakarta

    How many artists entered the competition? And Aapakh who shall be glorious.

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G


      August 17-18, 2024 · August 16-17, 2025.

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