Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Art and Art History, Art History
Cameron Trading Post, on the Navajo reservation in Arizona, is a major tourist destination that draws thousands of visitors monthly. Comprised of a restaurant, Fine Art Gallery, gift shop, and hotel, Cameron sells viewers the chance to experience Southwest Native American culture by advertising an “authentic experience.” Through the lens of visual culture theories, this paper examines the role notions of authenticity play at Cameron, the specific objects being sold, especially the kachina and the narratives of authenticity that are used to sell them, and the economic-historical contexts surrounding the objects and their creators. Scholars working in the field of material culture have challenged the perception that tourist art is a benign, dismissible genre. Cameron’s tourist art provides a case study to consider the dynamic and impactful role tourist art can have in the political and social power dynamics of encounters with Native American culture.