Natives in Charge of Their Narrative

Who Tells the Story Matters

RNCI & SWAIA Indian Market Groundbreaking Legacy


Red Nation Celebration Institute (RNCI) was founded by Joanelle Romero, a proud 15th Generation New Mexican, and it emerged out of a direct and compelling need. RNCI’s roots dig deep into the heart of Santa Fe, New Mexico, with its origins intertwined with the renowned Indian Market, a cornerstone event founded in 1995. During this seminal occasion, RNCI took its first steps and pioneered a revolutionary movement in the realm of music during the Indian Market. It’s important to note that in 1995, the stage lacked the echoes of contemporary American Indian music, a void that persisted since the inception of Indian Market.

In 1998, RNCI’s impact grew as it introduced the ‘Concert Series’ during the highly significant “Grammy Awards Week.” This event, serving as a confluence of music and cultural celebration, evolved into an “Official Grammy Event” by 2003, securing its status as RNCI’s cherished “Signature” Event. The year 2005 witnessed the expansion of RNCI’s influence as it launched a vibrant music scene on the Plaza during Indian Market weekend, infusing native melodies into the very heart of the festivities. Simultaneously, RNCI expanded its reach with the Red Nation Film Festival’s transformative “On the Road” initiative, delivering native content to Santa Fe and fostering the celebrated Red is Green Carpet Galas.

Red Nation’s audacious vision brought the sounds of native music to the forefront of Indian Market, transforming the event’s soundscape. The music movement catalyzed by Red Nation became a resonant force, spreading the rhythms of native music across the United States. This success stands as a testament to the music revolution Red Nation ignited, presenting a diverse tapestry of Native music from urban centers to reservations. Red Nation’s impact extended far beyond its origins and garnered national attention as a groundbreaking and widely celebrated event of immense stature. The concerts organized by Red Nation over the last two decades showcased acclaimed American Indian recording artists, Grammy winners, nominees, and emerging talents, many of whom secured major-label deals after gracing Red Nation’s stage.

In 2008, RNCI solidified its impact by establishing the American Indian Heritage Month in the State of New Mexico, in partnership with Governor Bill Richardson and NM Indian Affairs Dept. The year 2015 marked a new chapter with the inception of the Native Indigenous Film Commission and the RNCI Crew Directory, reinforcing RNCI’s dedication to nurturing Native talent in the entertainment industry.

At its core, Red Nation Celebration Institute stands as a guardian of heritage, documenting and preserving cultural legacies. It serves as a dynamic conduit for both American Indians and non-Indians to dismantle stereotypes and replace them with affirming portrayals that mirror the rich diversity of American Indian life and culture. Since 1995, RNCI has been an instrumental force during SWAIA Indian Market, annually presenting its iconic “On The Road” experience, which includes a Film Festival, Concert Series, and an array of engaging events that embody the essence of cultural celebration.

Legacy: RNCI & SWAIA Indian Market The unique journey of Red Nation Celebration Institute (RNCI) was catalyzed by a pressing need, transforming into a pivotal standard within the industry. This journey originated in Santa Fe, New Mexico, during the momentous Indian Market of 1995, where RNCI established a partnership with Don Owen, the former executive director of Southwest Association of Indian Arts (SWAIA).

A groundbreaking chapter began in the music scene during Indian Market, particularly at the iconic Paolo Soleri Amphitheatre. The year 1995 witnessed the birth of RNCI’s initiative, addressing the void of contemporary American Indian music performances that had persisted since the inception of Indian Market. From these early seeds, RNCI flourished into an influential entity, ushering in a series of pioneering initiatives that reshaped the landscape.

Over the years, RNCI’s influence extended beyond music to embrace film, culture, and celebration. The inaugural film festival in 1995 marked a turning point, followed by the launch of a dynamic Pow Wow in 1996. The year 2005 witnessed a significant expansion as RNCI brought captivating events to the Plaza during Indian Market, followed by the introduction of glamorous Red Carpet events in 2009. Notably, RNCI played a pivotal role in introducing the very first Native Coachella in 2010.

The profound impact of RNCI’s visionary programming is evident in the resonance it has achieved. Native contemporary music now harmonizes with the spirit of Indian Market, while Native Cinema breathes life into the cultural landscape. The allure of Red Carpet events illuminates SWAIA Indian Market with a renewed vibrancy. RNCI’s enduring legacy has sparked a creative renaissance, stirring the passions of an entire generation of artists and creators, and leaving an indelible mark on cultural celebration.




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