The Oak Creek Vista Overlook gives a bird’s-eye view of the canyons below and the surrounding forests. It is the most visited rest area in Coconino County, averaging one million visitors a year. The Overlook is also home to Northern Arizona’s most successful Native American open-air jewelry, art and craft markets.
The Native American Art and Jewelry Overlook Market is sponsored by and supports NACA – Native Americans for Community Action, Inc. – and is part of a longstanding partnership with Coconino National Forest Service. Currently, Navajo, Hopi and Zuni tribes participate in the daily market. NACA is working to recruit other tribes and Native artisans to participate.
“The Overlook Market has been part of NACA since 1988,” said Dorothy Gishie, manager of NACA’s economic development programs. “Our market is one of the most sought after locations. Our vendors like to come here because of the number of visitors and shoppers, resulting in good sales. We are in a good location; the area is maintained and clean.”
The Overlook is has become an organized outdoor marketplace, with a maximum of 16 vendors allowed each day.
“Occasionally, some people will show up and want to sell from their vehicles,” Gishie said. “We immediately ask them to leave. Anyone who wants to sell merchandise at the Overlook must go through our vetting process and be part of our selection procedures. All our vendors must attend an orientation before being allowed to sell here.”
Each vendor pays NACA $65 per day for a reserved concrete table. A lottery system determines monthly table assignments to ensure all vendors have equal access to the market. Most vendors secure three to 10 days a month.
The vendor fees come to more than a $1,000 each day, which pays for three full-time staff members. One staff member is assigned to the Overlook every day, all day. NACA is also responsible for all the renovations, maintenance, landscaping and cleaning bathrooms. The organization pays the Forest Service a percentage of the annual gross earnings to be used for expenses such as road and parking lot maintenance, as well as approved upgrades to the rest area.
After all expenses have been paid, the remaining monies are transferred to a special fund earmarked to fund youth and community programs, and support services for Native American individuals who are in need. The end-of-the-year surplus can be significant, which allows NACA to provide services the organization otherwise would not be able to.
“We gladly travel from Bitter Springs, which is closer to Page than Flagstaff,” said Vivian Boonie. “This is our favorite market to attend because of the high volume of visitors and because it is beautiful, clean and safe, and we love meeting people from all over the world.”
Boonie has been selling her family’s jewelry and pottery at the Overlook since 1995. Her mother started selling there in 1988.
Gishie says one of the best parts of the market is seeing the generations and families, like the Boonies, and knowing the proceeds are helping others.
Part of NACA’s mission is “to empower and advocate for Native peoples and others in need.”
Native Americans for Community Action, Inc. is a nonprofit organization based in Flagstaff. NACA provides services to Native and non-Native people. To learn more NACA’s programs, services and locations, visit NACAinc.org or call 928-526-2968. FBN
By Starla S. Collins, FBN
Caroline Robbins explains the Navajo symbolism associated with a bracelet to a visitor. Robbins and her mom are regular vendors at the NACA-sponsored Outlook market.
Photo by Starla Collins