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Attracting Tourism through Tribal Arts:

Northern Plains Tribal Arts Show and Market

An annual festival with a strong ethnic arts focus can be cultivated as a tourism attraction in its own right. Witness the mega-successful Zora Neale Hurston Festival in Eatonville, Florida. By zeroing in on a specific cultural heritage, festival planners had a precise product to develop and market. The same kind of attention has been given to the Northern Plains Tribal Arts Show and Market in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which has completed 14 years of promoting cultural awareness of a distinctive heritage and traditions through art.

Photo by Jayne Erickson, Marianne LarsenNorthern Plains Tribal Arts (NPTA) is an economic development program of American Indian Services (AIS), which was founded in 1979 to foster mutual understanding and positive communication between the Native American and larger non-Indian communities and to advance an understanding and appreciation of the Native American culture and traditions.

The four-day annual NPTA Show and Market features traditional and contemporary sculptures, bead and quill work, doll-making, paintings, drawings, and quilts by members of the 33 tribes of the Northern Plains. Community forums presented by the art show jurors are held at four sites on Thursday evening. Artists discuss their medium and market at juror forums held before the art show, reception, and sale. The Juried Art Show reception and sale is held Friday evening. During the next two Market Days, art is again displayed and visitors can meet the artists as well as enjoy traditional foods, dancing, singing, and demonstrations. The Northern Plains Tribal Arts Wacipi or Pow Wow on Saturday night features drum groups and traditional, fancy, jingle dress, and grass dancers.

Photo by Jayne Erickson, Marianne LarsenSince its inception, NPTA has awarded more than $150,000 in prizes, produced more than $1 million in sales for artists, and has seen a cumulative attendance of 70,000 people with an economic impact to Sioux Falls and South Dakota of $13 million. To accomplish these results, AIS has raised in excess of $1.5 million and has enlisted the assistance of 2,500 volunteers.

The mutual benefit to the individual artists, the tribes, the city, and the state is undeniable and the program has reaped accolades accordingly. The NPTA Show and Market has been recognized by the South Dakota Department of Tourism as one of the state’s Great Events in 1999, 2000, and 2001. NPTA was selected to represent South Dakota in the 2000

Local Legacies Project of the Library of Congress.

And, the South Dakota Arts Council and South Dakotans

for the Arts honored AIS as the recipient of the 2001

Governor’s Award for Support of the Arts by an Organization.

For more information, contact American Indian Services, Inc. at (800) 658-4797 or online at

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National Trust for Historic Preservation ®Photo by Jayne Erickson, Marianne Larsen