GALLUP, N.M. (KRQE) – One of the state’s most popular markets for Native American art is still feeling the impact of the pandemic. Stores in Gallup say many Indian jewelers and potters still haven’t returned to work, leaving many shelves empty.
In an emailed statement, the Indian Arts and Crafts Board says Indian County has been hit hard by the pandemic. The supply chain difficulties, the surge in the price of silver, and other supplies used for Indian art productions have also made it hard for artists.
“They hold back on making jewelry or pottery because they don’t think that we’re going to give them more money for it,” said Sabrina Batikh, Zuni Traders Owner.
The Indian Arts and Crafts Board says Gallup in particular has been slow to return to business, in part because of travel restrictions to and from the Navajo Nation. John Horndek, owner of Red Shell Jewelry in Gallup says he had six employees and now he only has one.
Luckily, Horndek says his shop hasn’t taken a financial hit. However, he says he may have to start operating differently due to his inventory of jewelry getting low. “We’re getting lower and lower all the time on inventory. We’ll have to start here manufacturing again and carry on,” said Horndek.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is also urging people to be diligent about avoiding counterfeit Indian art as another way to help boost Tribal economies. “Artists pass down their skills and traditions through generations so that every piece carries with its cultural significance, family history, and knowledge,” said Haaland.
A few shops in Gallup say they’re hopeful more artists will return to work once the unemployment bonuses go away in September.