I grew up in a unique family occupation - Indian trading. It is an old profession that describes people who traded with American Indians and most commonly associated with the American Southwest. There were traders in other parts of the country that had sufficient American Indian populations to sustain them; notably the northern plains. The southwest has the largest American Indian population and the longest trading tradition. Within a 200-mile radius of Gallup, New Mexico there are thirty-three tribes, the largest being Navajos of New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. The Navajo reservation is eight miles from Gallup and the Zuni reservation is twenty-two miles.
I am the third generation in trading, which began with my grandfather, George E Kennedy, in 1898. For me it was a special time because I was at the apex of Southwest trading until its demise began in the 80s. I and my family participated in the evolution of the business from horseback and wagons to airplanes and computers. Following graduation from the University of Arizona and then to a Fortune 100 company, I began to realize and appreciate the special knowledge and legacy of my family's profession; so, I returned to trading. It remains a passion in my life along with the experiences and knowledge that prompted writing four books relative to my and my family's experiences. John D Kennedy Southwest Indian trading books are a part of this website. The books reflect the legacy of both my family and me as I wrote from experience in dealing with and knowledge of American Indian people. For years I heard constant refrains from people talking to my grandparents, then my dad, and finally me - "You should write a book." My dad was a wealth of information on trading and we bantered about it for years. He was one of the smartest people I have known. He retired from trading at the age of 98 and then passed away in his 102nd year in 2015. I and my family had a great run with him.
In 1982 I split from our family business and started my own company. I went from working with nearly one hundred employees to one. My accounts dropped from several thousand to less than ten. I focused my business on large companies in the western national parks as well Disney world-wide. For most of my accounts I was their exclusive supplier of American Indian arts and crafts.
My experience provided opportunity to handle special quality arts and crafts. Arguably, I dealt with more North American tribes and Eskimos that anyone in the business. I always had to remind myself that I was in business to both "buy" and "sell". Often times I held on to special pieces for awhile. Typically, I would enjoy them through the winter season and then reluctantly part with them the next season. I confined my business to contemporary arts and crafts because the National Park Service has restrictions on antiquities. I was, however, fortunate to come across some nice collections through the years.
I founded the only trade association in the business, the Indian Arts & Crafts Association, that organization functioned for nearly forty years before it ceased in 2019. I served on the Advisory Board of the National Park Service.
During my time it became politically correct to use the term Native Americans. However, meaning no disrespect, everybody that I knew and dealt with preferred American Indian as the correct terminology.
I have extended my website to include John D Kennedy American Indian arts& crafts which includes quality arts and crafts for sale. Indian arts and crafts are diminishing commodities; but, they do not have to be watered and fed so there is no shelf life. These pages will vary as I add items from time to time. In time I will have this site professionally edited. There are many photos and information on this site, which includes approximately 500 listings. I also include narratives with items. Some pages can be a little slow to load, especially Baskets and Fetishes; but, I assure you, it is worth the wait.
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