This weekend marks more than a century of tradition for the Santa Fe Indian Market. Many of the early artists like Maria Martinez have since passed but their legacy continues. Members of Maria’s family regularly participate in what has become the largest Indian market in the world. The first Native American exhibit ever held in Santa Fe took place in 1919 at the Museum of New Mexico then located at the Palace of the Governors. Dance and Ceremonial Drawings, opened on March 29, 1919 and featured the work of four students from the Santa Fe Indian School.
Four Pioneering Artists
Awa Tsireh (Alfonso Roybal) participated in the 1919 Native American exhibit. Maria Martinez was his sister in-law. The other New Mexico artist was Ma Pe Wi (Velino Shije Herrera) of Zia Pueblo. The two artists from Arizona were Otis Polelonema and Fred Kabotie. They both hailed from the Hopi reservation in Shungopovi, Arizona. The show came to fruition through the hard work of Elizabeth DeHuff. She was the wife of John David DeHuff, the superintendent of the Santa Fe Indian School. This year’s Indian Market will highlight the work of over 1,000 artists from 200 federally recognized tribes from the U.S. and Canada.
A Legacy of Heritage
All four of the students went on to become prominent artists. Otis Polelonema returned to Arizona in 1925. For the next five decades he had 13 exhibits at the Heard Museum, Polelonema died in 1981. Fred Kabotie also returned to Shungopovi in 1930. His work, featured at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, led to a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1945. Kabotie died in 1986. Awa Tsireh’s artwork is featured in many museums, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum. He died in 1955 at San Ildelfonso Pueblo. The abstract work of Ma Pe Wi has been widely exhibited in the U.S. and Europe. Ma Pe Wi died in Santa Fe in 1973.