Phoenix Heard Museum Connects Visitors to American Indian Culture

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – JUNE 5: The Heard Museum on June 5, 2013, in Phoenix, Arizona. The Heard Museum is an internationally known museum of Native American cultural artifacts located on Central Avenue, Phoenix.

Fully dedicated to American Indian art and artifacts, the Heard Museum in Phoenix presents the history, life, arts and culture of American Indian people from a first-person perspective. Visitors gain a deep understanding of the the art collections and of Native history through the museum’s work to share the stories of the artists and tribal communities it features.

“Video and gallery interactive programs are all part of ways that we bring Native voices to our visitors,” Ann Marshall, Ph.D., director of curation and education at Heard Museum, told the National Endowment for the Arts in a 2016 interview. “Every year, our festivals bring hundreds of artists to the museum. Whether it is our Mercado de las Artes in the fall, the World Champion Hoop Dance Competition in February, the Indian Fair and Market in March, free First Fridays, or Free Summer Sundays, visitors have great chances to talk with artists and learn first-hand about their art.” The museum’s events draw more than 40,000 visitors annually.

Recognized internationally for the quality of its traditional and contemporary art collections and known for its unrivaled collection of Hopi Katsinas (also known as Kachinas), the Heard has grown since its creation by Dwight and Maie Heard in 1929 to feature world-class exhibitions, educational programs and vibrant festivals. Growing from the couple’s exemplary personal collection of primarily American Indian artifacts and art, the museum’s collection spans more than 1,700 years of Native heritage —from 300 A.D. to the present – and features more than 40,000 objects including multiple generations of fine art, weavings, pottery, basketry, sculpture, Katsina dolls, and more, Marshall said.

The museum’s exhibits include the moving Boarding School Experience gallery, which draws on the first-person recollections, memorabilia, writings and art of four generations of Indian school alumni and examines the controversial federal policy of removing American Indian children from their families and sending them to remote boarding schools in order to “civilize” them into mainstream society. Also featured among the Heard’s exhibits is an accurate recreation of the art studio of Santa Clara Pueblo painter Pablita Velarde/Tse Tsan “Golden Dawn”(1918-2006). Velarde, a pioneer as a woman painter during an era and community where painting was a male art form, depicted the traditional lifeways of her community that she feared would be lost, according to the Heard Museum’s website.

The Heard Museum also is home to the Billie Jane Baguley Library and Archives. The comprehensive research facility holds resources on nearly 25,000 American Indian artists and offers extensive information about indigenous art and cultures from around the world. Oldest House Indian Shop owner Rick Smith has visited and used the library’s resources and finds them outstanding.

“Several years ago, I spent a few days in the Heard Museum’s library gathering background information regarding our artists and studying the meaning of traditional design elements,” Smith said. “That information has been so important and useful for me as I am able to share it in very enjoyable conversations with our visitors.”

The Heard also features the American Indian Veterans National Memorial. The outdoor memorial to honor American Indian veterans includes a major sculpture by noted Chiricahua Apache artist Allan Houser and two sculptures by Vietnam veteran Michael Naranjo of Santa Clara Pueblo. “On panels in the memorial, we recognize American Indians’ service to the United States from before there was a United States up to the present,” Marshall said. “We also recognize the American Indian Medal of Honor recipients that include some of the first recipients who served as scouts in the 19th century.”

The Heard Museum is located at 2301 North Central Ave., Phoenix, Ariz. It is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $18 for adults, $13.50 for seniors, and $7.50 for students with a college I.D. and children age 6 -17. For children 5 and under and American Indians, admission is free. Free general admission from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every First Friday except March. For more information, visit

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Harvey’s La Castañeda Hotel Finds New Life

La Posada in Winslow, Ariz., by Steve McClanahan. Some rights reserved.

The story of Fred Harvey and the hotels, restaurants and tourism system he conceptualized and built along the Santa Fe Railway line throughout the Southwest is a story of inspired entrepreneurism. His legacy continues to inspire today as entrepreneurs pick up where he left off, most recently at Harvey’s La Castañeda Hotel in Las Vegas, N.M.

In 2014, Allan Affedlt and his wife, Tina Mion, bought the shuttered 25,000-square-foot hotel built by the Santa Fe Railway in 1898 and in 2017 completed the financing to begin its restoration. They look forward to reopening the horseshoe-shaped hotel with its welcoming belvedere tower just off the railroad tracks in late 2019, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

“Las Vegas, New Mexico, is the great undiscovered town of the Southwest, with more remarkable history and architecture than Taos or Albuquerque,” Allan Affeldt told the New Mexican. “And La Castañeda Hotel, where Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders held their first reunion in 1899 around the corner from Doc Holliday’s saloon, is the crown jewel.”

The New Mexican said Affeldt believes that once he reopens La Castañeda it will once again make Las Vegas a “must stop for travelers who love history and design.”

The historic property will join Affedlt and Mion’s La Posada, a Harvey Hotel designed by Mary Colter in Winslow, Ariz. The hotel, which opened in 1930 but had been used as railroad offices since the 1960s, was under threat of demolition by the Santa Fe Railway when Affedlt and Mion purchased it in 1997 and restored it with Daniel Lutzick. Conde Nast Traveler recently named the hotel to its Readers’ Choice Awards 2017 list of Top Hotels in the Southwest and West.

“Although none of the partners is a hotelier by training, they have accomplished what once seemed impossible — transforming a forgotten but magical place in to a living museum,” La Posada’s website states.

La Posada indeed is a magical place, also inspiring Oldest House Indian Shop owner Rick Smith after his first step into its lobby. “The epiphany came when my curiosity lead me to the timeless and well-maintained courtyard that was hidden from view…a time-traveler moment,” Smith says. Ever since, the idea of travelers headed west to “Indian Country” has fascinated Smith and inspired his career as a merchant set on creating fulfilling experiences for travelers and shoppers.

“Just like Fred Harvey of 135 years ago, we say to people, ‘Come explore!” Smith says. “Enjoy the unique cultural experiences that come with exploring history and with discovering new artists, places and friends.”

Explore the Oldest House Indian Shop at 215 E. De Vargas St. in Santa Fe today!

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Celebrated Silversmiths Advance the Art Form

The idea of travelers headed west to “Indian Country” has fascinated Rick Smith, owner of the Oldest House Indian Shop, since he first entered the lobby of La Posada in his hometown of Winslow, Arizona

“The epiphany came when my curiosity lead me to the timeless and well-maintained courtyard that was hidden from view…a time-traveler moment,” Smith says. “This feeling must have been familiar to those descending the Santa Fe Super Chief passenger car onto the same courtyard in 1930.”

Fred Harvey first exposed train-traveling tourists to Native American silverwork and created a ready market in the early 1900s, but skilled artists behind the craft and the merchants who love them did and still do carry forward the beautiful tradition over generations, advancing and expanding the art form.

The Oldest House Indian Shop features many jewelry artists renowned and awarded for their silver work and sought by galleries and collectors. Francis Jones is a fifth generation Navajo silversmith who uses the traditional method of sandcasting to create her signature “tracks” pieces. Sandcasting is a intensive process that involves creating a mold out of a clay-like sand and pouring molten silver into it. The process destroys the mold so each piece is truly one-of-a-kind. Francis learned the art at age 14 from her father and over her lifetime developed her “tracks” collection, where black oxidized channels in the pieces contrast to emphasize the bold lines of silver that she calls tracks. The award-winning artist has passed the traditional craft on to several of her children, who are are now accomplished silversmiths themselves.


Johnathan Nez combines traditional Navajo stampwork with horizontal and vertical lines of black oxidized silver, creating a contemporary look that doesn’t lose sight of tradition. Specializing in bracelets, some of his work features polished handmade silver balls gracefully placed on a backdrop of oxidized silver and deep-set stamping into heavy-gauge sterling silver. Johnathan hails from a family of Navajo silversmiths and was mentored by his brother, renowned artist Leonard Nez.



Murphy Platero learned the art of silversmithing from his mother, Lena Platero, renowned for her delicate feather jewelry. Murphy brings flowing motion to silver and turquoise with his unique pieces marked by overlapping strands and bundles of silver. The Navajo artist’s contemporary work brings the Southwest style forward with a nod to the art of the past.



Elgin Tom hand-makes his own intricate stamps to create his jewelry, including his signature maze design, a pattern of coils of rounded squares bringing to mind rows of kernels on an ear of corn. The contemporary design was inspired by the Northern Native American art of painting on totem poles. The intricate coils in the Maze pattern represent the symbols of family or clan. The Navajo jewelry artist learned his craft from his father and grandfather and incorporates his Maze design across a collection of hand-cast earrings, rings, pendants and bracelets.

“Just as the silversmith tradition is carried forward, so too is the call to ‘Come Explore’ made by merchants who advance and create ambient and fulfilling settings for travelers and shoppers,” Smith says. “The heart and soul of a good shopkeeper is concerned with you experiencing the rich Indian heritage of the Southwest. Bringing these artist into the scene is our life’s work.”

Visit the Oldest House Indian Shop and Smith’s life’s work at 215 E. De Vargas St. in Santa Fe to learn more and see the work of these talented people.

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Fred Harvey, Native American Silverwork, and the Cultural Tourists of 1890

Although he entered New Mexico 135 years ago, Fred Harvey’s influence remains, as the demand his company created for Native American art and Southwest tourism continue to thrive.

The first cultural tourists of the Victorian Era and the early 1900s embraced the Fred Harvey Company’s innovations in travel, dining, merchandising and tourism and, of course, the Harvey House. New Mexico’s 13 different Harvey accommodations offered comfort and civilization while traveling by train, as well as cultural expeditions and experiences unique to the Southwest.

One such experience was the Indian Building at the company’s Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque built in 1902. According to the website, the Indian Building, a museum and sales room, was devised to “expose and educate the traveler to the uniqueness of handmade Indian crafts,” as well as to sell the merchandise. Herman Schweizer, who managed the Indian Building and traveled Indian Country to acquire the an extensive collection of Native American arts and crafts, enlisted the help of Native American artists as demonstrators of their work and salespeople at Harvey Houses throughout the Southwest.

Schweizer helped drive the direction of Native American jewelry and crafts as an industry, including silversmithing. Mexican metalsmiths brought their craft to the Navajo in the early-1800s, and by the 1890s Navajo, Hopi and Zuni artists had developed their own styles of silverwork. At that time virtually all Native American silverwork was made for Native Americans, says Rick Smith of the Oldest House Indian Shop.

That changed when the Fred Harvey Company entered the picture. In 1899, the company began supplying turquoise stones and silver to trading posts in New Mexico and specifying the type and weight of jewelry needed for the tourist trade.The company purchased the crafts from the artists and sold these bracelets, rings and beads often called “Harvey House jewelry” or “workshop jewelry” on the trains over the Santa Fe line, at Harvey Houses, and at the Indian Building.

Silver jewelry made in the last years of the 1800s and the first years of the 1900s is characterized by heavy stamp work and frequently featured arrows and symbols introduced or required by traders as “typically Indian” designs, most likely due to the influence of Schweizer and the tourist trade.

In a nod to Fred Harvey’s legacy and the original Native American craftspeople, the Oldest House Indian Shop offers the Indian Shop Legacy Collection. Inspired by the Harvey House jewelry created for sale during that nostalgic golden era of train travel to the exotic Southwest, many of the stamps used have been hand made in order to replicate the jewelry of that time.

Visit the Oldest House Indian Shop at 215 E. De Vargas St. in Santa Fe to learn more and see the Legacy Collection.

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The Oldest House: Recognized as a Cultural Icon Even in 1879

Santa Fe’s Oldest House has been of interest to lovers of history and cultural experiences dating back at least 140 years, as evidenced by a Harper’s Weekly feature on Santa Fe in its September, 13, 1879, issue.  Yes, 1879!

The article, a piece of history itself, details the story of Santa Fe and its history of governance by Spain, Mexico and the United States:  “Our readers will be interested in the sketches given on this page of Santa Fe New Mexico, which enjoys the distinction of being the oldest town within the whole territory of the United States.”

One of three sketches featured is titled. “The Oldest House in the United States.”  Signed by C. Graham, it is an image of the Oldest House viewed from the southeast.  The article discusses the Palace of the Governors and its place in New Mexico history in detail, but the image chosen to reflect Santa Fe for the readers of Harper’s Weekly is that of the Oldest House.

While New Mexico was still more than 30 years away from becoming a state, our place in the history of the United States was already enchanting lovers of adventure.  And Harper’s Weekly didn’t even go back as far as they could have, choosing to begin its story with the entry of the Spanish in 1542.

“This location is steeped in layers of history dating back to the 1200s.” says Rick Smith, owner of the Oldest House Indian Shop on the site.  The Oldest House Indian Shop welcomes visitors into the Oldest House Museum in the National Historic Landmark Barrio de Analco Historic District, one of the oldest residential neighborhoods of European origin in the United States.  A part of the Spanish barrio originally settled in 1620, the Oldest House is also believed to rest on part of the foundation of an ancient Indian Pueblo built in the 1200s.  The New Mexico Tourism Department includes the Oldest House on its list of 15 must-see adobe structures.

“We have a fascinating community history spanning eight centuries,” Smith says.  “We are proud of that and love combining it with the timeless treasures created in the spirit of the cultures of Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Southwest.  They are things that spark the imagination and encourage curiosity and exploration.  Here at the Oldest House we provide a venue for the joy of being in Santa Fe.”

For more information, visit the Oldest House Indian Shop at 215 East De Vargas Street in Santa Fe.

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Cultural Tourists Seek Deeper Experience

Do your travels include opportunities to experience the authentic culture of the area you’re visiting?  Whether that’s through a national park, a historical place, an ethnic heritage site or a museum, you’re seeking more than to just see the sights.  You’re seeking the distinctive character of the place and its people.  You’re a cultural heritage traveler, a cultural tourist.

Rick Smith, owner of the Oldest House Indian Shop in Santa Fe, believes this cultural tourism, an ever expanding segment of the tourism industry, has got it right.

“I love to see more and more people seeking out the real cultural landscape of a place and engaging with its history,” Smith says.  “That may come about by leaving the beaten path to experience the unique scenery, historic homes of native people, the work of local artists, or traditional foods.  All of these things bring to life the character of a place and make a lasting impact.”

Solimar International, a cultural tourism consulting firm, reported that 81 percent of U.S. tourists in 2014 were considered “cultural tourists” and that more than one-third of U.S. tourists agree that specific arts, cultural or heritage events influence their choice of destination.  Many even extend their stay in a place because of cultural activities.

Smith, a cultural tourist himself, has a unique understanding of this group of travelers.  “We’re all seeking touchstones to tie us back to those extraordinary experiences we have as cultural heritage travelers,” he says.  “My aim at the Oldest House Indian Shop is to help people take a little bit of New Mexico, a little bit of Santa Fe or a little bit of the pueblos home with them.  I find it a wonderful opportunity to play a part in making a cultural heritage visit to New Mexico a memory to last a lifetime and beyond.”

Visit the Oldest House Indian Shop at 215 E. De Vargas Street in Santa Fe today and find your touchstone!

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Harrison Begay Paintings Serve As Touchstone

The watercolor paintings of traditional Navajo life created by renowned artist Harrison Begay bring back a time and place in Southwest Native American history in delicate and elegant detail.  His flat, graphic art depicting scenes ranging from the daily life of children and their pets to ceremonial dancers has won numerous awards and is exhibited in museums and private collections throughout the world.

Rick Smith, owner of the Oldest House Indian Shop in Santa Fe, has found Begay’s paintings to be a touchstone to the traditions, landscapes and cultures celebrated at the Oldest House.  Raised near the Navajo Reservation in Winslow, Arizona, Smith grew up with Begay’s work and the ideas and scenes he presented through it.

“I was not only very familiar with Harrison’s work, I was captivated by the subjects and the visual repository of this nostalgic period of reservation life being depicted,” Smith says.  “There is an elevated sense of affinity I have with the people and wide open spaces these memorable images bring to mind.”

Begay passed away in 2012 at the age of 95 after making his living as a painter for 65 years.  He began learning his craft in 1933 at the Santa Fe Indian School, studying under influential art teacher Dorothy Dunn, according to a biography of Begay published online by Bischoff’s Gallery.

After serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps from 1942 to 1945, a veteran of the Normandy beachhead and other World War II campaigns in Europe, he moved to Denver to enroll in a radio technician’s school, according to a story in the Denver Post.  By 1947 he had taken up painting again and approached the Post‘s art department with his work.

“The staff recognized a big talent when it saw one,” the Post reported in 2014.  “Navajo artist Harrison Begay, 29, had arrived, all right, and he was on his way to the big time.  Begay was to become one of the most noted artists of his generation.”

The Post featured his full-color painting of a traditionally-dressed Navajo woman on a palomino horse on its March 30, 1947, cover and included additional paintings and a story on the artist in the pages of the newspaper.

Begay returned to the reservation and worked in watercolors and silkscreen, but he didn’t seem to sit still.  In the 1940s he worked on the Maisel’s Indian Trading Post mural in downtown Albuquerque, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and other murals.  In the 1950s he created Tewa Enterprises in Santa Fe to make and sell reproductions of his artwork and the work of other Native American artists.

Over the course of his career he earned two grand awards at the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial and the Ordre des Palmes Académiques from the French government for his contribution to the arts in 1954.  In 2003, he won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, the organizers of the annual Santa Fe Indian Market.

His work is included in the Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of Modern Art, the Heard Museum and others.

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Candelaria Suazo Pottery Marked by Intricate Process

The sgraffito two-tone pots created by Candelaria Suazo of Santa Clara Pueblo, some of them detailed tiny miniatures less than two square inches in size, inspire fascination in collections of Native American art.

“These alluring small bowls with intricate symbolic geometric, animal, mythical and prayer feather designs are treasured keepsakes,” says Rick Smith, owner of the Oldest House Indian Shop.

Sgraffito, Italian for “scratched,” is exactly as described.  Layers of different colors are applied in the process of making the pot and after drying are then scratched off to create a contrasting image in the under color.  Some of her bowls emerge from firing having both black and reddish-brown coloration, Smith says.

“The contrast between the polished and painted and etched surfaces, especially the cream slip over red, is very pleasing visually,” Smith says of the prize-winning artist’s fine work.

First trained in traditional pottery making by her mother, Santanita Suazo, Suazo began hand-coiling pots from clay found on Santa Clara Pueblo and firing them in a traditional outdoor fire pit in 1987.  She also has been influenced by many other relatives including Margie Naranjo, Martha Huangooah, Mae Tapia, Shirley Duran, Delores Curran and Geri Naranjo, according to the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian.

“Candelaria is a special person to me,” Smith says.  “She has kindly invited me to Santa Clara Feast Days and last summer she demonstrated her pottery creating technique at the Oldest House Indian Shop for collectors during Indian Market weekend.”

Experience the beauty of Suazo’s pottery on a visit to the Oldest House Indian Shop, 215 E. De Vargas St., Santa Fe.

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Tiny Feathers Connect Father and Daughter

When the artist known as Silver Hawk began looking for a project on which to focus his talent more than 30 years ago, the idea of carving feathers out of bone came from his daughter, Rebekah.

Silver Hawk created a pair of feather earrings out of pieces of bone, and what is now Silver Hawk Studio was born.  The Studio now creates more than 30 varieties of small bone feathers carefully carved and painted to replicate the feathers of birds ranging from the golden eagle to the hummingbird.  The feathers are featured on necklaces and earrings available at the Oldest House Indian Shop in Santa Fe.

Silver Hawk passed away in 2004 after teaching his original techniques to other carvers and painters, including Rebekah, who continues the Silver Hawk legacy.  Rebekah, the studio’s resident owner and artist, ensures that the designs and carving techniques used are up to her father’s standards.  Rebekah’s daughter is a painter in the family business as well and is the third generation carrying the artistic legacy forward.

Based in Estes Park, Colorado, the Silver Hawk Studio artists create the feathers of birds ranging from raptors like the golden eagle, red-tailed hawk and great horned owl, to their colorful cousins the hummingbird, duck and parrot.  The studio also can create custom feathers from photos sent by customers, sometimes in honor of or in memory of their pet birds.

“We get a lot of emails and cards from people who say, ‘I have an amazing connection to these pieces.  I can feel the good vibes you put into them.'”  Rebekah says, “I want people wearing their Silver Hawk and enjoying it.  That’s what matters to me.  Like my father, I want to spread some color and life and beauty around.”

Rick Smith, owner of the Oldest House Indian Shop in Santa Fe, finds that Silver Hawk Studio jewelry reflects the rich Native heritage of the American southwest, recalling the function feathers have in Native American life.

“Silver Hawk jewelry is a captivating artistic expression that serves as a point of reflection on the use and vital function of feathers by Native Americans.”  Smith says, “Since discovering Silver Hawk nearly 15 years ago, this jewelry has served our customers as a touchstone to their cultural experience while visiting.”

See these tiny treasures today at the Oldest House Indian Shop, located at 215 East De Vargas Street in Santa Fe.

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Wounaan Baskets Bring The Rainforest To Contemporary Art

From the remote reaches of the Darien Gap, a roadless jungle of tropical rainforest on the border of Panama and Columbia, the indigenous Wounaan basket weavers produce museum-quality works of contemporary art sought by collectors for their beauty, craftsmanship and tradition.

“There are no cultures anywhere in the world, past or present, who have made baskets as fine as these artists make,” says Clive Kincaid of Designer Imports, Inc.  Kincaid has traveled to Panama multiple times a a year since 1998 and has bought more than 20,000 baskets to import for sale in the U.S.  He still marvels at the artistry of the work, where one square inch of basketry may contain 1,000 to 1,600 stitches.

The Wounaan master weavers, most of whom are women, have spent the past few decades expanding the scope and artistry of their traditional utilitarian baskets.  Sewing by hand palm fibers dyed with what the jungle has to offer, they have incorporated geometric designs found in their culture’s body-painting tradition and created complicated pictoral designs.

“They’ve done what no other cultural group has done in the world,” Kincaid says.  “Most weavers around the globe are limited to three or four colors, a bleached white, black, brownish orange and yellow,” Kincaid says.  “In the case of the Wounaan, they live in an extremely productive rainforest and they have gone out and tried to find colors they can fix.  They fix the colors by cooking roots, fruits, flowers and leaves with fire ash.  With that they have created an incredible palette of colors to put into their baskets.”

Kincaid says the finely stitched and colorful baskets are further set apart by the intricate and complicated design work.  “Since they branched out over 200 years ago from geometric designs, they are now able with an incredible amount of ability and expertise to create birds, animals, flowers and trees,” he says.  “Some of the big baskets will have a diorama of the jungle on a single basket.”

Living a beautiful but simple life in the remote jungle, a weaver may work from two months to two years on a single basket.  Baskets range in size from three inches in diameter to up to 20 inches.

“The basket design grows from the bottom out so the weaver has to have the entirety of design in her mind when she starts,” Kincaid says.  “It takes a lot of imagination.  A weaver must be very clever, very astute and quite determined in order to make it work.  It really is an amazing phenomenon.”

The baskets of the Wounaan are waiting for you to discover and examine at the Oldest House Indian Shop at 215 East De Vargas Street, Santa Fe.  Stop by today.

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