Four exhibitors sat within the willow framework of an American Indian long house under blue skies on a bright autumn day this past weekend.
The four were operating the Indian market on the grounds of Treehut Nursery on Highway 94 in Weldon Spring. Displayed on tables were silver and beaded jewelry, leather goods, artwork and other Indian items as well as food.
St. Charles County resident Robert Penny, an American Indian with Apache, Cherokee and Mohawk ancestors, organized the market. He hopes to make it a regular event for two reasons: to give the public a chance to meet and talk to Indians and to give his fellow Indians a market for their arts and crafts.
"I would like to have a four-seasons market," one each season, said Penny, who works as a silversmith. This weekend's market was the first in this area.
Penny estimates that 150 to 200 people visited the market. He is optimistic that future markets will be more crowded.
"Because of the uniqueness of the artists, this can be a welcomed novelty and give the community a better opportunity to understand the many differences in people of our culture," he said. "Just here today we have Seneca, Navajo, Apache, Cherokee."
In August, Penny got permission to set up his teepee and a booth on the Treehut Nursery lot. Because of the positive response from passers-by, Penny decided to organize the market.
He and Treehut owner Walt Sinclair built the 100-by-12-foot frame of a traditional northeastern Indian long house. He also set up his 14-foot-diameter canvas teepee, similar to that used by plains Indians. He sleeps in it at Indian festivals and powwows. He described to visitors the history and features of the teepee and explained that a similar teepee made from 10 buffalo skins would weigh about 300 pounds.
In the past two years, Penny has been organizing a trade group for Indians. About six months ago, he started the Native American Traders Association with 10 member-artists and a four-member council.
Penny spoke with a gentle cadence as he sat at his work table and fashioned a silver ring.
"The Native American Traders Association is aimed at guaranteeing the authenticity of native American crafts," he said. …