IACA Journal, Fall 2014 - page 14

IACA Journal | Fall 2014
History of the Creation of the IACA
John D. Kennedy, Third Generation Indian Trader and
founder of the Indian Arts and Crafts Association
In 1970, third generation Indian trader John D. Kennedy, became
concerned with the state of the Indian art business. As Indian art
gained in popularity, increased demand and limited production
opened the door to the importation of foreign made knockoffs.
He understood the threat to both the Indian artists and to the
reputable traders who worked with these artists. His constant,
immensely time-consuming and dedicated efforts to deal with this
situation resulted in the founding of IACA in 1974.
Here are some excerpts from his book,
A Good Trade: Three Generations of Life
and Trading around the Indian Capital
Gallup, New Mexico,
followed by his
comments about those involved in this
historic event.
“I was concerned by the lack of commu-
nication and coordination within the
Indian business and the overwhelming
demand for inventory. An aura of greed
in the trade compounded matters, with
many businesses disregarding ethics. I
talked with Dad about devoting time to
creating an industry trade organization.
At a time when everyone was going to
the bank with a wheelbarrow, I decided
to spend time to develop a trade or-
ganization. It proved to be extremely
time-consuming, expensive, and frustrat-
ing. Two years later in 1972, I launched
the first trade association in the Indian
business since the United Indian Traders
Association in the ‘40s. I named it the In-
dian Arts and Crafts Association (IACA).
Trying to organize people during pros-
perity was challenging. Typically, people
are more receptive to organization in
times of adversity or perceived threat.
Neither existed in the early 70s, but de-
ceptive advertising, inventory, and pric-
ing were increasing… Developing the
IACA was made difficult by the immense
distrust that had developed within the
trade. The Indian business became char-
acterized by greed and distrust of com-
petitors. Many seemed to want all the
business. Many newcomers to the trade
did not understand the market from
wholesale and retail perspectives. My
mission was to get people in the business
to acknowledge and accept others of like
mind to protect and enhance the market
for American Indian handcrafts.
Several evenings a week, I flew my plane
to Taos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Phoe-
nix, Tucson, and Denver. I met with
area dealers to discuss the concept of a
trade organization, and then flew back
to Gallup late at night. Initially, two or
three people attended but eventually
attendance reached twenty or thirty. The
major obstacle was getting people to
recognize others in the trade. Some peo-
ple considered others as crooks, but not
themselves. If the organization allowed
someone in, someone else refused to
join. It was a never-ending cycle.
Frank Dressman, a Santa Fe dealer, came
to see me about the IACA when it had
no name. He and his wife had attended
several organizational sessions with-
out commitment. He gave me a check
for $100 and said, “For the life of me I
cannot see how this is going to work or
how you can rip me off doing it, so I am
willing to chip in $100 to find out.” He
was one of the charter members.
Aside from convincing people to join
the organization (no name yet), the next
greatest task was to assemble a leadership
team. There were people that expressed
interest in the organization but were not
willing to work at it. For some there was
concern about tainting their reputation
in the business if the organization failed.
From the outset, Bob Allen of First State
Bank in Gallup was both interested and
encouraging to see the organization
come to fruition. Early on Bob recog-
nized the impact that the organization
could have on the economy of the Gallup
area. The Indian craftspeople were a
life-line to our economy. They were
producing a product that arguably was
in limited supply because a handful of
people could not logically overproduce.
He understood my concern that the
popularity of the market would invite
knockoffs and manufactured goods. He
felt that threat would be from outside of
I used Bob as a sounding board for much
of what I was doing and planning. First
the organization needed a name and
an identity. The name was pretty much
a no-brainer. Then we needed a logo. I
went to our resident artist at Gallup In-
dian Trading, Paul Pendergast, and asked
him to create a logo. In order to protect
the integrity of the logo I felt it needed
to be copyrighted. I heard of an attorney
in Albuquerque who could probably do
it for us. I went to Albuquerque and met
the young attorney, recently graduat-
ed from law school. He became very
interested and offered to provide counsel.
That was Tim Sheehan. Tim became a
dedicated and tireless worker for the
IACA. He attended all of our meetings
and gave us good advice in our formative
years and beyond.
Once I had a name and a logo I felt there
was more to sell on the IACA concept,
but it still needed some direction. I made
a majority decision (1-0) to appoint the
first board of directors. I felt that with
a proper pedigree, the core directors
could recruit and build an organization
better than I could. I decided upon
people that I knew or knew of in the
trade that I thought were influential and
committed to the Indian arts and crafts
business. Following are those people that
I recall from memory. After forty years
it was a challenge and I am apprehensive
that someone has been omitted. If so, I
apologize now and hope that they can be
properly recognized.
Doug was a prominent auctioneer that
plied his trade throughout the western US.
He knew most prominent collectors and
many dealers. He was a very personable
and likeable guy.
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