Tourism is important to Native American Indians since they were introduced to the monetary trade ways of the west. It’s their bread and butter so to speak, despite having survived very well (not to mention more peacefully) without money just a few hundred years ago. Now many of the Hopi and Navajo peoples are confined to reservations, which having seen these desolate lands first hand, are far from the wild and lush lands of yesteryear.
What we can do to help when we’re buying the ´keepsakes´and treasures of the native peoples in any country we visit is to buy from authentic crafters and taking tours with people that respect the ways of the people that live on their sacred lands. In the south west of America there are shops everywhere selling American Indian art and collectables like dream catchers and turquoise jewellery. It’s a question of authenticity rather than availability. But there are organizations out there looking out for the authentic craftspeople. The not-for-profit Council for Indigenous Arts and Culture
informs people where they can buy original indigenous arts and crafts.
I picked up one flyer that told me how you can tell the difference between an authentic piece and a copy; what material you should look for (ie a written disclosure on the raw component of the stones used should be included with the receipt); and the questions you should ask to ensure you’re getting what you really want (i.e. is it Handmade or Handcrafter – the latter requires less skill, the artists name and tribal affiliation and whether the stones used are natural, stabilized or imitations). They also provide a Shop with Confidence brochure that lists the businesses and sponsors who are committed to authenticity and the honest representation of Native American Indian arts and crafts. You can find these members of the Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association at www.atada.org
There are also laws such as the Indian Arts and Craft Act that protects indigenous arts and culture from misrepresentation. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your home work as there are still profiteers who are willing to sacrifice integrity for the sake of an easy tourist buck.
When planning a visit to this ancient land visit the Northern Arizona Native American Culture Trail
. And also check out the visitor´s centre in Flagstaff, a great resource to help you discover more about the ways of the Native American culture.