“Native American” replicas and bootlegs are plentiful, but purchasing them harms the livelihoods of real American Indian artists. The good news is it’s just as easy to support tribal communities in Arizona by shopping for authentic American Indian artwork while also getting to meet the artists and even try your hand at their crafts.
Huhugam Ki Museum
Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (Scottsdale area)
Huhugam Ki, meaning “House of the Ancestors,” pays tribute to the predecessors of today’s Onk Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Piipaash (Maricopa) tribes – in particular, the cultural and artistic knowledge they share. Using many of the same techniques passed down by their huhugam, Salt River Pima-Maricopa artists offer traditional items for sale at the museum shop, such as beadwork, baskets, pottery and dresses in the early peasant-style of the Onk Akimel O’odham and Piipaash people. There are also beaded headbands, Basket Dancer dolls and watches.
Should you find yourself in town on the Saturday closest to November 11, be sure to attend Huhugam Ki’s annual anniversary celebration. Watch traditional dancers, meet artists and sample food from vendors. And on the first Saturday of each month, you can meet basket weavers, potters or blanket weavers.
Hubbell Trading Post
Navajo Nation (Ganado)
Northern Arizona’s Hubbell Trading Post has been in operation since 1878 and is one of the last of Arizona’s trading posts to have a trader on staff. Artists bring items to trader Edison Eskeets Monday through Friday, such as Pendleton blankets, buckskins, clay pipes, blue cornmeal and especially those beloved Navajo rugs.
This National Historic Landmark regularly hosts a Navajo weaver – and if your timing is right, you can catch a demonstration. If you’re feeling inspired, you can also purchase a loom and supplies for yourself. During the hands-on “Sheep, Wool and Weaving” workshop in July, attendees learn how to card, spin and dye wool, with a final lesson in felting.
Hopi Arts Trail
Hopi Tribe (northwest Arizona)
Hamana So'oh's Gallery is just one stop along the Hopi Arts Trail.
The Hopi Arts Trail is a drive across 73 miles of tribal land to visit three Northern Arizona mesas, 12 villages and the artists who call them home. Many welcome guests inside their home studios to see first-hand how they create their crafts using thousand-year-old techniques passed down through generations.
Along the way, discover a variety of Hopi art including basket weavings, Katsina doll carvings, pottery, paintings, sculptures and blown glass.
Bonus tip: If you show the Hopi Arts Trail Passport (found at hopiartstrail.com), you’ll receive special pricing.
Yoemem Tekia Cultural Center and Museum
Pascua Yaqui Tribe (Tucson area)
The history of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe in Southern Arizona dates back to the Uto-Aztecan people of the Southwest and Mexico, whose cultures and languages continue to intertwine. The gift shop at the Yoemem Tekia Cultural Center and Museum on Pascua Yaqui land near Tucson sells art, traditional clothing and jewelry made by local Yaqui artists.
Catch vendors in town during Lent and the week before September 18, Tribal Recognition Day, when traditional items like clothing, drums, regalia and ojos de venado, or "deer eye" (a brown seed worn as a necklace), are for sale.
During the holidays, especially Easter and Lent, known among tribal members as Cuaresma, the tribal communities hold ceremonies that are open to the public; however, sketching and recordings of any kind are not allowed.
Tohono O’odham (Tucson area)
On Tohono O’odham land just south of Tucson you’ll find the “White Dove of Desert,” the historic Mission San Xavier del Bac. It’s oldest European structure in Arizona, and its architecture is a grand combination of the Tohono O'odham culture with the Mission’s Catholic heritage.
The Mission gift shop sells jewelry, dolls and other crafts made by indigenous artists from North, Central and South America. Traditional American Indian foods and plants can also be purchased at the San Xavier Co-op Farm shop just down the road.