The thriving Arizona Indian Festival features Native singing, dancing, and art to promote tourism and raise awareness of Arizona’s native people. Vendors, art, and demonstrations give visitors opportunities to learn about Indigenous culture and history.
An Arizona Indian Festival committee verifies all festival sellers for authenticity to ensure that visitors to the festival, which took place on Saturday and Sunday, February 10–11, interact with genuine Native art. Vendors must also present a certificate of degree of Indian or Alaska Native blood, proving that they are legitimate members of Native American nations in Arizona.
Silversmith According to Steve LaRance of the Hopi Tribe, visitors to the Southwest are interested in Native American culture and seek an authentic experience.
“Our artwork carries a lot of that beauty and culture when we create it,” he went on to say.
LaRance emphasised the importance of authenticity in Native American arts and crafts because knockoffs from Indonesia, China, Japan, and other countries deplete Native people’s and their families’ income.
“It’s all about the money because Native American arts and crafts are a multibillion-dollar industry annually,” LaRance told the audience.
According to LaRance, Native American arts and crafts are highly appreciated around the world because they preserve Indigenous people’s culture and heritage.
LaRance stated that he can create basic sterling silver rings in about a day or an ornate piece of jewellery in two or three months, depending on the complexity, design, and materials used.
Another artist at the festival, Navajo jeweller Tonya June Rafael, stated that knockoffs are endangering her business and that she has no control over the situation. Rafael mentioned that once at a show, she sat next to two large booths that peddled mass-produced jewellery.
“I’m selling my jewellery as a one-person business. I mean, how can I compete with that? Rafael stated.
Despite the hurdles, Rafael hopes her work will encourage younger Native artists to create their own creations.
Sonja Morgan, a rug weaver from the Navajo Nation, said there is a drive for true Native art since Native American tradition is being recognised more, including in movies.
The event promotes Indigenous culture and acknowledges the efforts of artists. Morgan utilised a Navajo loom to demonstrate the intricate process of rug weaving.
She stated that real art is always the greatest because a buyer knows the work comes directly from the artist, and the artist did not add anything cheap or cut corners during the process.
Morgan stated that when she produces a rug, she considers who she is doing it for and strives to preserve a positive spirit in the finished product.
“There’s more blessings and prayers,” Morgan said of true art. Morgan says she enjoys showing others her work and watching their enthusiastic reactions.
Navajo silversmith McHale Alcott explained that the celebration is also about family and preserving Indigenous art through generations.