This Saturday, Binghamton went native. The region’s first American Indian Art Market was held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton on Riverside Drive. Unlike other similar gatherings in the northeast, which primarily feature contemporary American Indian works, this event set itself apart by including historical artwork alongside modern art.
The market included silver-work and pottery from southwestern tribes, handcrafted Navajo and Seminole dolls, totem poles from northwestern tribes and much more, with some pieces dating as far back as the 19th century.
The event was organized by the Iroquois Studies Association, an organization formed by the merger of the Iroquois Studies Association, Inc and the Otsiningo American Indian Project, educational programs based in Ithaca and Broome County, respectively. The group aims to educate New York on all things Iroquois, from the spiritual beliefs of the five Iroquois nations to the leading issues facing the Iroquois and the Native American community today.
Dolores Elliott, director of the ISA, organizer of the American Indian Art Market and Binghamton University alumna, said that she organized the event to allow “more people to obtain a greater understanding and appreciation for Native American culture through its works of art.”
The event was “wonderful,” Elliott said, and had a very encouraging turnout. Many attendees expressed their admiration of the works of art and newfound appreciation for the expressive side of Native American culture.
Despite being organized by the ISA, which is focused primarily on Iroquois culture, members of numerous tribes were there to present their respective tribes’ distinctive and unique cultures. Attendees were delighted by Navajo jewelry, Mohawk woven baskets, carvings by members of the Cayuga and Seneca tribes, sparkling beaded pieces, various incarnations of gourd-based art and more. Two of the leading Native American potters in the northeast were in attendance; they received a wonderful reception from market attendees and did very well in sales.
It was a wholehearted success, and an auspicious example of the richness and enduring beauty of Native American culture, a richness that unfortunately remains unknown to great swaths of the American population. This event is just one example of how local organizations like the ISA are continuously working to further educate the American public and expose them to the fertile and resonant artistic expressions that Native American culture offers, one community at a time.
Entry to the event was free, but the ISA accepted donations, which went to Trees, Water & People, an organization dedicated to energy conservation education in reservation communities, and The Solar Women Warriors Scholarship Fund, which provides solar energy training at the Sacred Earth Lodge, located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.