SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – The chief operating officer of the nonprofit Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, which presents the annual Santa Fe Indian Market, is resigning after more than three years at the post.

Dallin Maybee took over the nonprofit at a turbulent time and leaves after a contentious period. Changes to the application process and the elimination of a longstanding tenure policy rankled some longtime participants and former leaders of the storied 96-year-old art market.

"I feel like we've made a lot of positive changes which will lay a more stable foundation for years to come," Maybee said.

Maybee, an artist and lawyer of Seneca and Northern Arapaho heritage, said he will not seek to renew his contract after it expires Dec. 31, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported .

Maybee said he wants to live full time with his wife and young daughters, who live in Phoenix, and return to practicing law. 

The market draws hundreds of Native American artisans and an estimated 100,000 visitors to downtown Santa Fe each August for the city's busiest tourism weekend.

The decision to abolish tenure, which had allowed many senior artists and some younger prize winners to bypass the qualifying jury process, touched off a debate about whether the market was seeking new blood at the expense of accomplished masters of Southwestern Native art, some of whom relied on Indian Market sales and had been attending the prestigious summertime Plaza event for decades.

And a newly digitized application process caused difficulties for some senior artists who either lacked computers or online savvy.

San Ildefonso potter Barbara "Tahn-moo-whe" Gonzales, great-granddaughter of legendary potter Maria Martinez, said the changes seemed to target many traditional Southwestern artists.

"The preservation and the continuity of traditional Indian arts of New Mexico is at the basic core of this organization," Gonzales wrote in The New Mexican after being placed on a waiting list to participate in the market. "Where is the respect of New Mexico Indian arts and its promotional, beneficial features for SWAIA?"

Maybee touted fundraising and donation hauls during his time at the helm and said the changes in direction had solidified the future of the lucrative and historic event.

New market policies value "fundamental fairness above all," he said.

Elizabeth Kirk, who chairs the SWAIA board, said Maybee is leaving the market "in a really good place."

Maybee said he would remain in Santa Fe likely through February to assist the next operations executive through the artist application and jurying processes.

The 97th annual Santa Fe summer Indian Market is scheduled for Aug. 18 and 19.

Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican,