Western Trips

Western Trips

Monday, September 19, 2011

Trading Posts / Original Hubbell Trading Post

The Hubbell Trading Post can be said to be the oldest still operating trading post in the United States. Located on the Navajo Indian Reservation in northeastern Arizona, the post is a National Historic Site and is operated by the Western National Parks Association as a non-profit enterprise. This association still carries on the business that the Hubbell family started in 1878. The site is an authentic Native trading post and well worth a trip to.

Navajo History in Arizona and New Mexico

hubbell trading post
Trading Post, Courtesy NPS
The year 1868  was the year the Navajo's, who historians trace back to the 1500's, returned to the northeastern Arizona area after their forced exile to Bosque Redondo near Ft. Sumner New Mexico.

Historians refer to this as "The Long Walk". While at Bosque Redondo they became acquainted with items they never had seen before.

The Navajo Indian Reservation was established by the Treaty of 1868 after their release from captivity. The reservation size is about 3.3 million acres near the Four Corners area. The history of the Navajo is very interesting. 

The Navajo lived in homes called hogans. These were round dwellings built with sticks, earth, brush and hides. The Navajos also built six sided hogans. The hogans consisted of one room with the front door always facing east to catch the early morning sunlight. The Navajo's are considered to be the largest tribe of all Native Americans. The Spaniards were the first Europeans who the Navajo traded with. They would travel to the towns the Spaniards set up and display their wares for barter. There were many things the Spaniards brought with them that were very useful to the tribe. 

Violence Between Two Cultures

picture of hubbell at trading post
Hubbell and weaver at trading post, 1890
As with most cases of culture clash there was violence. The Spaniards, Mexicans and eventually the Americans used military force to try to subdue the Navajo tribe. 

In the case of the Spaniards, they experienced a pueblo revolt in New Mexico about 75 years after they established Santa Fe. The Navajos, who were not involved in that 17th century war, were later accused of raiding the camps of Europeans. 

The Americans established formal military forts to force the Navajo on reservations. About two-thirds of the tribe surrendered and were resettled. Others fled north to Utah or hid in canyons. 

The famed scout, fur trader and military officer, Kit Carson, was involved in several campaigns against the Navajo during the early years of the New Mexico Territory after the Mexican-American War ended. Eventually the Treaty of 1868 settled the matter of where the Navajos would reside. They were able to leave the area near Ft. Sumner New Mexico. The exact boundaries of the current reservation in northeastern Arizona were altered a few times after 1868.

Established in 1878

John Lorenzo Hubbell purchased the trading post in 1878, 10 years after the Navajos returned to their native lands. Earlier in life Hubbell had served as a Spanish interpreter with the Army since his ancestry was half Spanish.

Referred to as Don, a Spanish designation of respect, Hubbell had a career that spanned more than trading. During his lifetime he served as sheriff of Apache County Arizona, was an Arizona Territorial legislator and served in the Arizona senate after statehood in 1912.

Hubbell married a Spanish woman and had two sons and two daughters. As the family grew so did the original adobe house that Hubbell built. The old adobe house eventually became a larger much more comfortable home. The Hubbell family was quite different from most early pioneer traders. Most traders, if they had a family as a rule left their families back east. In the case of the Hubbells the entire family spent most of the year at the trading post. The Navajo people needed to trade with outsiders like John Lorenzo Hubbell. He filled a big need. The Navajos needed to supplement their own crops and products with good's from the outside. The Navajo's were able to trade Hubbell goods such as wool, sheep,  rugs, jewelry, baskets, and pottery.

The Lasting Legacy of the Hubbell Trading Post

navajo nation flag
Navajo Nation Flag
The Hubbell family members continued to operate the business for almost 100 years until they sold it in 1965 to the National Park Service.

During Hubbells trading career he built 30 similar trading posts spread throughout Arizona, California and New Mexico. The trading post store is still very much in business and is a must stop for serious collectors of Native American products. Along with the trading post is the original 160 acre homestead. The Hubbell Trading Post is located on the Navajo Indian Reservation. It is a real part of the Navajo Nation.

The Hubbell Trading Post has ongoing programs today to benefit both the Navajo and Hopi Indians. The Friends of Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Inc. arranges various events that provide funds for scholarships to Navajo and Hopi students. Their mission as stated on their website is.."Our Mission - Friends of Hubbell Trading Post NHS is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1990. Our aim is to aid and promote the management of programs and objectives of the Historic Site. Other goals include supporting Native American arts and crafts through our biannual Native American Art Auction , providing scholarships to Navajo and Hopi college students, and to increase the awareness of the trading post heritage in the Southwest". The Navajo trading post stays very involved with the Navajo culture.

The Hubbell Trading Post is located one mile west of Hwy. 191 in Ganado, Arizona on U.S. Highway 264.

If you're traveling via I-40 you can follow U.S. Highway 191 North to Ganado. If you are driving directly from Gallup, New Mexico, follow U.S. Highway 491 North to U.S. Highway 264 then west toward Ganado. This route will take you though Window Rock Arizona which is the site of the spectacular "Window Rock", an excellent photo opportunity.

The Hubbell Trading Post is located on the Navajo Reservation. There are certainly many excellent National Parks in Arizona to visit during your Arizona vacation. Step back in time by adding the historic Hubbell Trading Post to your Arizona vacation planner. You'll see some very good Navajo products and learn more about the Navajo history.

(Article copyright Western Trips. Photos and images in the public domain)

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1 comment:

  1. I remember our family traveling across the country about 45 years ago and stopping off at a couple of trading posts along the way. I still have a pair of Navajo cloth dolls purchased at one of them.


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