More than 100,000 art collectors flood Santa Fe each August for Santa Fe Indian Market, one of the most prestigious Native American art markets in the country. The two-day market may be the confluence of Native culture—drawing tribal members from across the U.S.— but Puebloan, Apache, and Diné (Navajo) culture permeates Santa Fe year round. Here’s where to binge on Native culture on the Santa Fe plaza and across the city.
Arrive before the market to road trip out of Santa Fe to see elements of Native culture past and present. An hour’s drive will take you up the cliff-hugging road of the Pajarito Plateau to Bandelier National Park, most notable for its cave dwellings which ancestors lived in some 700 years ago. Journey a bit father still to the Poeh Cultural Center, where the permanent exhibit tells Pojoaque Pueblo’s emergence story through figures and dioramas crafted by Native Artists. On the way back into Santa Fe, stop at the Red Sage Restaurant at Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino, co-owned by the pueblo. The building features Pueblo architecture—albeit a modern-day, resort version of it–and the menu gives traditional Native ingredients, such as bison and trout, an American fine-dining twist. You can also stay the evening at the hotel.
Arrive early Saturday morning (before the 7 a.m. market opening) to preview the artists’ works and chat with the makers as they set up—before the rows of booths are deluged with casual browsers and art collectors. Native music acts and dance groups take the bandstand’s stage throughout the morning, and in early afternoon, visitors grab coveted seats (there’s a fee to sit) for the haute couture and ready-to-wear fashion show. At the same time on Sunday, tribal members compete in the Native American clothing contest.
Come afternoon, take a break from the market to take in the works of the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, the only in the U.S. dedicated to progressive work from contemporary Native artists. Changing exhibits feature the works of Institute of American Indian Arts students, alumni, and faculty, as well as artists without a connection to the venerable institution that oversees the museum. Explore more traditional art, such as a fabulous Pueblo pottery exhibit that details the differences between each of New Mexico’s tribes’ traditional designs, visit the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture.
Before you head back to the hotel, check the schedule of the Native Cinema Showcase, an indie film fest held in conjunction with Santa Fe Indian Market. For the evening, turn down the covers at Hotel Santa Fe, a charming downtown hotel that Picuris Pueblo owns.
In the cool of the morning, stroll Canyon Road, where many of the galleries along the mile-long stretch hang Native American-themed shows in honor of Indian Market.
In the afternoon, if your schedule coincides, book a Native American Cooking class with local chef and Native cuisine aficionado Lois Ellen Frank at Santa Fe School of Cooking so you can make traditional cuisine at home.
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