The Palace of the Governors has been a center of activity since its construction as New Mexico’s second capitol in 1610. Said to be the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States, the Palace has housed such diverse occupants as Spanish governors, a Pueblo Indian community, and the territorial governments of the Mexican and American republics.

At the time of the Pueblo Revolt in 1680, the Palace of the Governors was abandoned by the Spanish, like the rest of New Mexico, to the indigenous Pueblo Indian people, who held the building for the next thirteen years, converting it into traditional "apartment house" dwellings. When don Diego de Vargas led his Army of Reconquest back to Santa Fe in 1692, he found that the Palace resembled the multi-storied Taos Pueblo.

Since its founding in 1909, the Museum of New Mexico has worked to protect and promote Southwest Native American arts and crafts, Museum policy reserves the portal, or front porch, of the Palace of the Governors for the use of New Mexico Native Americans to display and sell wares they or members of their households have made. The artists and craftspeople selling their work here are part of a decades-old tradition that virtually no New Mexico resident or visitor has missed.

There are over 1,000 authorized participants in the Native American Vendors Program. The majority live in the pueblos or on the reservations and are deeply conservative people with many traditional obligations – both civic and ceremonial – at home; these can be very demanding, and frequently unpredictable, in terms of time. The portal as a workplace provides vendors with the scheduling flexibility to fulfill these obligations without jeopardizing their livelihoods.

All program participants are required to demonstrate their technical mastery of art and craft skills as part of the application process. The program is monitored, and work inspected, daily by members of a ten-person committee of vendors elected by their peers at an annual meeting held in April. There is a complex set of rules governing the conduct of the program and the quality of the items sold under the portal. New rules, rule changes, revisions and refinements are proposed jointly by vendors and the museum administration and voted on at the annual meeting by program participants. These rules often are requested as guidelines by other organizations and shows.

The Palace of the Governors’ Native American Vendors Program has developed organically over eight decades and continues to evolve. It is an ongoing experiment in multicultural cooperation. Members of all nineteen New Mexico Pueblo groups, the Hopis, the Navajo Nation, Jicarilla and Mescalero Apache tribes, and Anglo and Hispanic museum staff work closely together daily. From the reservations, pueblos, villages, towns and cities of New Mexico, they come together to form an enduring community.

This market has been of incalculable economic benefit to New Mexico Native Americans for generations, providing a reputable and reliable outlet for their arts and crafts. To New Mexico residents and visitors, this unique program offers a splendid opportunity to talk to Native American artists and craftspeople, and to purchase, or simply admire, a wide selection of fine work, both traditional and contemporary in design.

Native American artists and craftspeople sell their work at the Palace of the Governors 360 days a year from 8:00 am to dusk. The person sitting to the left of the museum entrance is the duty officer and can answer questions about the program and/or assist you in locating a particular vendor.

The Palace of the Governors is a unit of the Museum of New Mexico, which is also comprised of the Museums of Fine Arts, Indian Arts & Culture and International Folk Art, The Laboratory of Anthropology as well as five state monuments. To find out about exhibitions and related events, check CultureNet's Events Calendar or the Museum of New Mexico's Web site.

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