For the past 15 years, the Aquinnah Cultural Center has hosted a northeast indigenous artisans festival every July at the Aquinnah Circle. This year the cultural center had to cancel the festival due to the pandemic. The market is back, though, for the holiday season selling everything from cornhusk dolls to hand-woven sashes, wampum jewelry, dreamcatchers and white buckskin dresses at its online Facebook site.

Berta Welch, president of the cultural center, said after they had to cancel the July festival, she and her fellow board members were determined to find a way to provide a platform for the artists later in the year. Jamie Vanderhoop, a part-time employee at the cultural center, reached out to her cousin Dawn Spears, who works for the Northeast Indigenous Arts Alliance, to figure out how to move the fair to a digital venue. The online site is now being used by over 30 artists from different tribal nations from all over the Northeast.

“It’s a really positive vibe and everyone seems to be really happy,” Ms. Vanderhoop said. “There are some great connections being made.”

The market opened for business the day after Thanksgiving. Ms. Spears said business has been booming. “Friday was crazy. Overall, I think it’s been amazing, just having this kind of space and being able to connect people across the country.”

Ms. Spears and Ms. Welch are also participating artists in the festival. Ms. Spears’ work includes brightly-painted handbags, sneakers and clothing.

“Color puts positiveness on any situation,” she said. “If it’s gray and gloomy out that color will cheer you up.”

Ms. Welch makes contemporary art, combining quahog shells with other stones and shells like abalone, mother of pearl, melon shell, conch shell and spiny oyster shells. She said pairing the colors from other shells and stones with Island quahogs creates color patterns that enhance her work’s natural beauty.

“It’s a lot of cutting, grinding and putting them together,” Ms. Welch said.

The market will run for at least another week through it’s Facebook page (facebook.com/groups/NIAHM). Ms. Vanderhoop said there is a possibility the market will be extended due to its success so far.

“We’re so thankful for the virtual world, especially in this crazy time,” Ms. Vanderhoop said. “There are some silver linings. Some of the people who never would have made it to the ACC market in July have been really blown away by some of the artwork and creations.”

Ms. Welch said another silver lining is in the future when artisan festivals can take place in person again, the Aquinnah Cultural Center can simultaneously host them online and continue to extend their reach.

“You’d have that visibility that Northeast native people are still here and this is the type of artwork that is indigenous to our peoples,” Ms. Welch said. “These types of arts really belong to the indigenous people of the northeast,”