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  • Trader/vendor problems

    I want to start a discussion on what committees do in dealing with "questionable" traders.

    For instance, what do folks do about the rubber tomahawks, rubber drums, and horrid reed whistles sometimes sold by traders? Often traders are not asked back, but what ought a committee member do in the middle of the event if a trader pulls this garbage out to sell?

    Other trader problems come up from time to time. A few years back there were people complaining about traders selling pipes and pipestone. This issue has died down, however.

    There are quality traders out there that sometimes get confronted about silly things, and then there are traders that sell garbage and nobody ever says anything.

    Any comments?
    Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

  • #2
    I agree Robert. The commitee's be responsible for the people they invite to set up at thier powwows. By making a clear statement as to what is acceptable and not acceptable to sell at thier events, and asking for a list of items or references from the perspective vendors, they can keep out alot of the junk, but I'm sure some will still get by them. At a powwow in upstate NY, run by a very righteous commitee, they were handing out a paper with an article all about rubber tomahawks and such junk. Warning people to beware of these kind of vendors. However, at the very next booth over, they had an indian 'medicine card reader' and the powwow was littered with pseudo-indian garbage(i.e. a piece of leather strung between 4 sticks with a Harley Davidson design painted in it!)The commitee has to be credible as well!
    DCP, what's wrong with selling pipes or pipestone?


    • #3
      it is absolutely the responsibility of committees to set the boundaries for traders and vendors. Before or during the event someone should be monitoring this situation.

      In having participated in committees, this was discussed, debated and decided beforehand and was indeed carried through- I had not a problem telling traders of our boundaries and those that weren't comfortable with such did not choose to trade at our event.

      Often, however, committees are relying on revenue from vendors. It seems just as often, some are willing and able to compromise their boundaries. I would also venture to say that some do not establish boundaries.

      I know several arena directors and emcees that make it a point to meet with committees ahead of time and are willing to discuss such boundaries also.

      As usual, the committee members are held responsible and act as they will. Most are open to suggestions, that is why this should be communicated.

      There are many sources of revenue, it just takes a willingness and an ability for good planning and time.


      • #4
        I know just what you cant make acceptions. Its either all or have to bann it all or accept everyone to do it. I( think another problem is that smaller pow wows will accept everyone because they are dying to make the pow wow sucessful.

        I personally do not agree with selling pipes and pipestone but not everybody me it is a sacred gift. A pipe should be obtained by gift and pipestone perhaps by gift or trade...but this is just my oppinion. To me I think it cheapens the true value of a pipe that is one of the most sacred of possesions.

        Robert Laughing Owl
        Robert Laughing Owl


        • #5

          The East Tennesee Indan League holds a powwow every May. They require their vendors to send photgraphs of their particular wares. They generally have a good cros section of vendors. Althoug they do this some rubber tomahawk folks come and slide it on the table. This does eliminat the poorer vendor selctions though.

          The hornet


          • #6
            Many committees have an invite only policy which I think works very well. If the committee members are well traveled surely they have run into reputable vendors. Of course this is subject to if they know what reputable vendors are or not. I think the best vendors carry a wide selection of craft supplies, tapes, mocs, silverwork, GOOD bead work, etc. etc.

            The expressed opinions above are not particularly the opinions of the author's friends, family, or employer.


            • #7
              My husband is the Vendor Liasion for a local pow wow here. They circumvent the rubber tomahawk thing in the contracts that vendors must sign. They are allowed to have rubber tomahawks and the like out for a few hours during School Day, but the children don't have a lot of time to get around to the vendors and teachers are usually steered away from the rubber tomahawk people. After that is over, it only last 2 or 3 hours, the vendors must put them away. If they are seen again, the vendor is asked to put them away and usually does. This committee has some great vendors, but one usually slips in every year and is never asked back. There is also a stipulation on the contract that everything sold must be "made by your own hands or handmade". Like I said, it usually works. And if a new vendor calls interested in coming, they are required to send in a photo of their booth. That lets you see what they offer and how well it's put together. There are 4 or 5 vendors that come every year and they are like our family! Vendors are truly interesting people! Well traveled and lots of opinions on every aspect of a pow wow. We have gotten some really good suggestions from vendors on other aspects of the pow wow and how to improve them.


              • #8
                I am very pleased with how many responses have come soooooo fast. I appreciate the input.

                Rabbitbelly, some folks were upset in my area about 4-5 years ago about selling catlinite. I guess their rationale is that it is sacred. I was taught that a pipe has spiritual significance once it goes through ceremony, so I personally don't have a problem with pipes or pipestone being sold.

                Anyway, my organization lets traders know what is acceptable, but sometimes the junk comes out once the dancing begins and the committee is very busy.

                It's easy to not allow a trader to come back, but it's more difficult to do something once they are there, set up, and wares laying out on tables.

                It's a little late for this year, but upcoming powwows, I will see about putting more specifics in the trader contract.

                One other problem- some traders become very righteous about the rubber tomahawks and drums because they have "Cherokee Nation" printed on the packaging. Is this legit? Do the Cherokee actually allow this junk to carry their name? Do they get a cut of the money?

                Dealing with NHW's post: "They are allowed to have rubber tomahawks and the like out for a few hours during School Day, but the children don't have a lot of time to get around to the vendors and teachers are usually steered away from the rubber tomahawk people."

                This is probably the worst time to have the junk out- 1. kids are impressionable. 2. the kids have a little money that burn through their pockets. 3. Kids have limited supervision on field trips. 4. Believe me, kids find the stuff. 5. I pray the teachers really know the score.

                Thanks for the posts, I hope for more input. Hey, anyone care to share horror stories you may have dealing with wacky traders?
                Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.


                • #9
                  I know what you mean...ther is often a big problem with this...seems to be getting bigger in the south as the pow wow scene becomes more popular to non-ndns and to bikers especially. I was even at a pow wow where they were selling confederate flag memoribilia! I think it is the responsibility of the pow wow commitee to screen the trader apllicants more closely...but often times this is easier said than done

                  Robert Laughing Owl
                  Robert Laughing Owl


                  • #10
                    In our committee we have found that the vendors will do alot of complaining, but as long as they end up with a good profit their problems go away.

                    We've had problems with vendors complaining about the way the Pow Wow is run. They get upset because we didn't have a public blessing of the areana, etc.

                    We have one person on the Committee that is designated to spend most of thier time talking to the vendors and working with them on any problems. This seems to work fairly well.


                    • #11
                      "In our committee we have found that the vendors will do alot of complaining, but as long as they end up with a good profit their problems go away."

                      Boy, do I hear you on that one!
                      Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.


                      • #12
                        As a vendor liason for many years my rule was Only these items were permitted on school day. After that they had to be removed from the table. If the vendor did not remove then he/she was asked to leave, for the contract clearly stated it must be Native American made or by your own hands. If it was made a Native other than themself then I wanted to know by whom it was made. I screened all my vendors for just this. I also tried to get a good mixture of wares. That way everyone was happy and you did not have someone beside someone else with the same thing. I agree you must go to the other powwows to check out what the vendor has and not be afraid to ask them questions. If you provide warm showers, coffee and other drinks along with food they will be happy. We tried to get donations of this sort from our local sources, but you must use foot power here. It does work if you try hard enough. Now we all know you can't please all the people all the time and this goes for Natives also. You must keep a check on them during the powwow for some of vendors have no but themselves at the booth. We all know we need bathroom breaks,etc. It is this little extra touch that helps. No matter how much effort you put into it someone will complain. This has been my personal experience.


                        • #13
                          I know this is bringing up the forbidden topic again and I'm sorry, but it kinda fits in here. What about non-native made crafts? Not flea market stuff! I mean good qualty work that happens to be done by a non native. A few years back, I was told that as a non-native, I would not be permitted to participate in this particular powwow in any more then a supportive capacity. No singing, dancing or vending for non-natives. I attended anyway, just to see what was going to be there. There was absolute JUNK at the vendors boothes, a handful of dancers(maybe 5) who looked and danced completely rediculous, and one really ,and I mean REALLY bad drum that sounded like they were about to fall asleep! And most of these so called indians looked pretty white to me anyway. I know this happens more often then you'd like to think, so what's your experiences with that?


                          • #14
                            I dont think there's anything wrong with it rabbitbelly. There's plenty of vendors that sell top notch merchandise that is made by non-natives. Most beads are made in Chech Republic. Many of the powwow tapes sold at booths are produced and distributed by non-natives. There's one vendor I can think of who gets his fingerweave sets from South America. It is quality stuff too. So, as long as it is quality work, what's the problem?

                            The expressed opinions above are not particularly the opinions of the author's friends, family, or employer.


                            • #15
                              And to add to what OTR said, there are a couple of non-Indian traders in my area that many Indians will go to first for craftwork.
                              Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.


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