To maximize your dollars, stock up on camping items at a grocery store in a larger city, if possible. In general, prices are lowest in Flagstaff and rise steadily as you near the canyon, peaking at the Canyon Village Marketplace inside the park.
A Native American Crafts Primer
The Four Corners region is taken up almost entirely by the Navajo and Hopi reservations, so Native American crafts are ubiquitous. You'll see jewelry for sale by the side of desolate roads, Navajo rugs in tiny trading posts, and Hopi kachinas (also spelled katsinas) being sold out of village homes. The information below will help you make an informed purchase.
Hopi Kachina Dolls -- These elaborately decorated wooden dolls are representations of the spirits of plants, animals, ancestors, and sacred places. Traditionally, they were given to children to initiate them into the pantheon of kachina spirits, which play important roles in ensuring rain and harmony in the universe. Kachinas have long been popular with collectors, and Hopi carvers have changed their style over the years to cater to the collectors' market. Older kachinas were carved from a single piece of cottonwood, sometimes with arms simply painted on. This older style is much simpler and stiffer than the contemporary style that emphasizes action poses and realistic proportions. A great deal of carving and painting goes into each kachina, and prices today are in the hundreds of dollars for even the simplest. The tsuku, or clown kachinas, which are usually painted with bold horizontal black-and-white stripes and are often depicted in humorous situations or carrying slices of watermelon, are popular with tourists and collectors. In the past few years, young carvers have been returning to the traditional style of kachina, so it's now easier to find these simpler images for sale.
Hopi Overlay Silver Work -- Most Hopi silver work is done in the overlay style, which was introduced to tribal artisans after World War II, when the GI Bill provided funds for former soldiers to study silversmithing at a school founded by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie. The overlay process basically uses two sheets of silver, one with a design cut from it. Heat fuses the two sheets, forming a raised image. Designs often borrow from other Hopi crafts, such as basketry and pottery, and from ancient Ancestral Puebloan pottery. Belt buckles, earrings, bolo ties, and bracelets are all popular.
Hopi Baskets -- On Third Mesa, wicker plaques and baskets are made from rabbit brush and sumac and colored with bright aniline dyes. On Second Mesa, coiled plaques and baskets are created from dyed yucca fibers. Throughout the reservation, yucca-fiber sifters are made by plaiting over a willow ring.
Hopi Pottery -- Contemporary Hopi pottery tends toward geometric designs and comes in a variety of styles, including yellow-orange ware decorated with black-and-white designs and white pottery with red-and-black designs. Nampeyo, who died in 1942, is the most famous Hopi potter. Today, members of the Nampeyo family are still active as potters. Most pottery is produced on First Mesa.
Navajo Silver Work -- Whereas the Hopis create overlay silver work from sheets of silver and the Zunis use silver work simply as a base for their skilled lapidary or stone-cutting work, Navajo silversmiths highlight the silver itself. The earliest pieces of Navajo jewelry were replicas of Spanish ornaments, but as the Navajo silversmiths became more proficient, they began to develop their own designs. The squash-blossom necklace, with its horseshoe-shape pendant, is one of the most distinctive Navajo designs.
Navajo Rugs -- After the Navajos acquired sheep and goats from the Spanish, they learned weaving from the pueblo tribes, and by the early 1800s, their weavings were widely recognized as being the finest in the Southwest. Women were the weavers among the Navajos, and they primarily wove blankets. However, by the end of the 19th century, the craft was beginning to die out as it became more economical to purchase ready-made blankets. Although today the cost of Navajo rugs, which take hundreds of hours to make, has become almost prohibitively expensive, enough women still practice the craft to keep it alive.
The best rugs are those made with homespun yarn and natural vegetal dyes. However, commercially manufactured yarns and dyes are increasingly used to keep costs down. More than 15 regional styles of rugs exist, and quite a bit of overlapping and borrowing occurs. Bigger and bolder patterns are likely to cost quite a bit less than very complex and highly detailed patterns.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.