Arts & Culture Featured Travel, Shopping & Leisure Fara Illich November 4, 2009

AFTCO1There’s a lot of talk nowadays about buying local. Even within the sovereign Apache nations of Arizona, there is a great need to galvanize support for local businesses. This is not only for economic reasons, but also to foster and maintain tribal crafting traditions while supporting the customers and artisans who buy and sell merchandise.
For this reason, the San Carlos Apache Nation and the White Mountain Apache Nation of Arizona created AFTCO. AFTCO stands for Apache Fair Trade Cooperative – an all-volunteer organization dedicated to improving the economic, cultural and spiritual conditions of the Apache people. AFTCO does this by paying fair-market prices to crafters, helping artists help themselves, maintaining the traditions of the craft and educating others in the ways of their Elders. The approach is hand up vs. hand out.
At least one aspect of AFTCO’s local efforts is making a global impact in the form of peridot – bright yellow-green gemstones used to create distinctive jewelry. According to the USGS, anywhere between 80 to 95 percent of the world’s peridot comes from the San Carlos Apache Nation. Along with the jewelry, AFTCO members are renowned for their beading, weaving and leather-making abilities.
peridotThough they may have cornered the market on peridot, the AFTCO craft masters do not reap even modest financial returns. With 60 to 80 percent of the families from both the San Carlos and White Mountain Apache reservations living below the federal poverty level (income of $22,050 or less for a family of four), AFTCO’s impact stands to reach far beyond the objectives of its mission.
But you can help by buying local from AFTCO members on Nov. 12 – 13. The event will take place at St. Mary’s Basilica – across the street from the Phoenix Convention Center – from 10:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. both days.
From Local First to AFTCO, we’re all Arizonans who need to support each other – for economic and cultural prosperity, and a future we can count on.