Southwest Tourism

Ninja Turtle figureNinja Turtle figureZachary Garcia (Acoma), b. 2006
Clay and commercial paint
SAR.2007-1-519
Courtesy of Addison Doty and SAR
(please contact if you feel you may hold copyright to this piece)

Example of Native art with European influence
Rain God (3-D)Rain God (3-D)Tesuque, ca. 1900–1910
Clay and paint
SAR.1999-9-32
Courtesy of Jason S. Ordaz and SAR

Build your own 3-D glasses (PDF, 315 KB) or visit Southwest Crossroads in 3-D to receive a free pair.
Ninja Turtle figureRain God (3-D)

The Native American tribes of the Southwest did not actively participate in tourism until the arrival of trains and the Fred Harvey Company made it easier for tourists to visit the area. The Harvey Company heavily advertised Southwest Indians as an “attraction” in their marketing campaigns. The Indian artist was one of the company’s icons. In souvenir postcards and books, the Harvey Company portrayed Native Americans as picturesque with simple utopian lifestyles.

The Pueblos, the Navajo Nation, and Apache tribes are now set up for tourism from many years of experience dealing with the industry. Pueblos like Acoma offer guided trips through the village and charge camera fees so visitors can take pictures. Other tribes may not allow any photography, although they allow tourists to visit. Some tribes may also be open to the public for celebrations like feast days. Southwest tribes are well-known today for their fine craftsmanship in jewelry, textiles, and pottery.

Cultural Performances

Indian Detours

The Fred Harvey Company created the Indian Detours in response to the growing automobile industry after World War I. “Harveycars” would pick up tourists at one of two locations for one- to three-day tours of the various Pueblos, Southwest landscape, and artist studios. The Indian Detours offered an up-close and personal view of the region’s Native Americans. In addition, the Fred Harvey Company produced many postcard images and souvenir books of the Indian Detours and Native Americans which allowed its passengers the opportunity to take a piece of their visit home.

Gallup Indian Ceremonial posterGallup Indian Ceremonial posterNarciso Abeyta (Navajo), 1938
SAR.1981-1-18
Courtesy of Addison Doty and SAR

Notice the heading labeled “Weird Rites”
Gallup Indian Ceremonial poster
Gallup Indian Ceremonial posterGallup Indian Ceremonial posterLouie Ewing (American), 1970
SAR.1978-9-1
Courtesy of Addison Doty and SAR

“Featuring Apache Devil Dancer”
Gallup Indian Ceremonial poster

The Harvey Company took great care to arrange everything with the consumer in mind. The Indian Building located at the Albuquerque depot served as one way to entice tourists to buy Native American goods. The Indian Building was designed so that passengers walked past museum-like displays before finally reaching a gift shop containing Native American arts and crafts. Craft demonstrators present on site also became part of the tourist attraction. Notable artists employed by the Harvey Company include Elle of Ganado, a Navajo weaver at the Indian Building, and Nampeyo, a Hopi-Tewa potter at the Hopi House.

Gallup Indian Ceremonial

The Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial, held annually in Gallup, New Mexico, began in 1922 and has since expanded to include an array of different events for both Native and non-Native visitors. The “Ceremonial” began as a way to capitalize on the tourist industry created by the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railway when they built the El Navajo Hotel in Gallup in 1918. Like many other Harvey hotels, El Navajo was extravagantly furnished and a welcome site to tired travelers along the Santa Fe Railway. El Navajo closed down in 1957 and later reopened, but the “Ceremonial” continued running.

The Gallup Indian Ceremonial is no longer considered an event made for tourists, although it still attracts them. The “Ceremonial” has become a gathering place for Southwest Native peoples. In addition to the specific dances performed by certain tribes, the “Ceremonial” also offers an all-Indian rodeo, a contest pow-wow, parades, craft demonstrations, a tribal pageant, and the chance to view and purchase various Native arts and crafts. The “Ceremonial” is considered a place where people from other cultures can come and have the opportunity to learn more about various aspects of Native American culture.

Arts & Crafts

Rain God (3-D)Rain God (3-D)Tesuque, ca. 1900–1910
Clay and paint
SAR.1999-9-31
Courtesy of Jason S. Ordaz and SAR. Request a free pair of 3-D glasses.
Zuni pseudo-ceremonial pottery (interior view)Zuni pseudo-ceremonial pottery (interior view)Zuni, ca.1929
Clay and paint
IAF. 1280
Courtesy of Addison Doty and SAR

Notice the odd figures and form of the piece
Rain God (3-D)Zuni pseudo-ceremonial pottery (interior view)
Rain God (3-D)Rain God (3-D)Tesuque, ca. 1900–1910
Clay and paint
SAR.1999-9-32
Courtesy of Jason S. Ordaz and SAR

Build your own 3-D glasses (PDF, 315 KB) or visit Southwest Crossroads in 3-D to receive a free pair.
Zuni pseudo-ceremonial potteryZuni pseudo-ceremonial potteryZuni, ca. 1900-1950
Clay and paint
IAF.2377
Courtesy of Addison Doty and SAR
Rain God (3-D)Zuni pseudo-ceremonial pottery

Native American arts thrived in the tourist industry of the American Southwest. Tourists bought items such as basketry, pottery, jewelry, Hopi katsinas, and Navajo blankets. With the rise of tourism, material culture also changed in response to tourist desires. Objects became miniaturized for easier transportation by train and new forms appeared with European influences. These trends continue in the present-day tourist market.

Searching for Authenticity

In the past, the search for “authentic” Native American goods often became linked with the idea of “primitivism.” Despite the intricate artwork found on Southwest pottery, tourists would often purchase less skillfully crafted items. One of the tourist pieces to arise during this era is the Tesuque rain gods. The rain gods are fashioned with this “primitive” idea in mind and are crudely shaped and decorated. Tesuque Pueblo does not have rain gods, which makes these pieces even more ironic. Thousands were produced and sold between 1885 and 1925 for as little as $0.25. One can still find rain gods at antique stores and in museums. Modern-day prices for these ceramic figures can reach several hundred dollars.

Tourists were not the only ones searching for authentic Native American goods. Museums were also in the market of collecting old ceremonial pieces. During the quest for ceremonial pottery at Zuni Pueblo, a number of “pseudo-ceremonial” pots were distributed and sold to museums in order to protect the real ceremonial pottery. Pseudo-ceremonial pottery played off other ideas of primitivism by being extremely fanciful and sometimes bizarre in appearance. They had unpractical forms and random attachments or holes in the vessels. Strange figures often appeared on pseudo-ceremonial pottery that was atypical of traditional Zuni forms. There is still ongoing debate as to how much these forms were commissioned by white traders for sale to museums.

Rain God (3-D)Rain God (3-D)Tesuque, ca. 1900–1910
Clay and paint
SAR.1999-9-31
Courtesy of Jason S. Ordaz and SAR. Request a free pair of 3-D glasses.
Rain God (3-D)Tesuque, ca. 1900–1910
Clay and paint
SAR.1999-9-31
Courtesy of Jason S. Ordaz and SAR. Request a free pair of 3-D glasses.
Zuni pseudo-ceremonial pottery (exterior view)Zuni pseudo-ceremonial pottery (exterior view)Zuni, ca.1929
Clay and paint
IAF.1280
Courtesy of Addison Doty and SAR

Notice the odd figures and form of the piece
Zuni pseudo-ceremonial pottery (exterior view)Zuni, ca.1929
Clay and paint
IAF.1280
Courtesy of Addison Doty and SAR

Notice the odd figures and form of the piece
Follow us: