It is 1885. You have traveled by wagon for days. You enter the valley of the Pueblo Colorado Wash, known as Lók'aah niteel, Wide Reeds. As you approach Hubbell Trading Post you see others have arrived to trade. Navajo friends greet one another. You are here to trade a rug for goods that you will need for the winter.
See the rustic door? It opens to a store filled with wonderful products. Walk in and you'll feel like you've stepped back in time. See the gate? Within are animals, corrals, wagons, and a barn.
Today you have traveled by vehicle for a few hours. Hubbell Trading Post is still here and operating! The door and gate invite you. Welcome.
A Bridge Between Cultures
In the late-1800s the number of trading posts grew across the Southwest. Traders provided supplies and helped local tribes whose lives had been changed drastically by the U.S. government. John Lorenzo Hubbell's contribution and influence as an Indian trader was significant. For over 50 years he was known for his neighborly friendship, honest business dealings, and wise counsel to American Indians. Explorers, artists, writers, scientists, even President Theodore Roosevelt enjoyed the atmosphere of this trading post and ranch and the hospitality of the Hubbell family.
Starting Out Hubbell was born in 1853, in Pajarito, New Mexico Territory, son of James Lawrence Hubbell from Connecticut and Julianita Gutierriez of Spanish descent. Young Hubbell learned the ways and language of the Navajo while employed as a clerk and Spanish interpreter at forts and trading posts. He married Lina Rubi of Cebolleta, New Mexico Territory in 1879, and they had four children: Adela, Barbara, John Lorenzo Jr., and Roman.
Aftermath of the Long Walk HubbellDon Lorenzo to local Hispanics, Naakaii Sani (Old Mexican) or Nak'ee sinili (Eyeglasses) to the Navajobegan trading here in 1876, at a critical time for the Navajo. Hubbell came to Ganado as the Navajo struggled to adjust to reservation life following the brutal ordeal of the 1864 Long Walk to Hwééldi, Bosque Redondo (Fort Sumner), in New Mexico Territory, and their four-year imprisonment. They returned home in 1868 to their destroyed homesteadshogans, herds, and crops gone. Because of this devastation, trading for food and products became important.
Trader and Friend After the Long Walk, local tribes gathered at the post, where Hubbell was merchant and liaison to the outside world. He translated and wrote letters, settled quarrels, and explained government policy. When a smallpox epidemic swept the reservation in 1886, he opened his home as a hospital. "Out here in this country," said Hubbell, "the Indian trader is everything from merchant to father confessor, justice of the peace, judge, jury, court of appeals, chief medicine man, and de facto czar of the domain over which he presides."
Hubbell died in 1930 and was buried on the hill overlooking the trading post. Hubbell Trading Post stayed in the family until 1967, when Dorothy Hubbell, Roman's wife, sold it to the National Park Service to be preserved as a national historic site. Today, as in 1876, American Indians bring handcrafted rugs, jewelry, pottery, and baskets to the trader. Locals buy groceries and share stories. Are you enchanted by a Navajo rug, a silver necklace, pottery, or a Hopi basket? Don't hesitate; take home a beautiful example of American Indian artwork.
TRADERS AND TRADING
I give you something of value, and you give are something that we agree is of equal value.
Trading is a custom that has been practiced by Southwestern ancestral people for hundreds of years. In the early 1800s white traders traveled by wagon, bringing goods to exchange for commodities with local people. In 1868, with the establishment of the Navajo Reservation, the U.S. government set up rules to regulate trading businesses. Itinerant traders were encouraged to get licenses and open permanent trading posts.
Hubbell worked at his first store two miles upstream from Ganado. In 1876 he bought William Leonard's business in this location and opened Hubbell Trading Post.
Cash flow in the stores was almost non-existent, requiring traders to give customers credit. Debts to the businesses were paid off annually when the customer's commodities became available: piñon nuts, wool, firewood, livestock, and produce. When traders discovered the artistic skills of local tribes, they began accepting handmade rugs, jewelry, carvings, baskets, and pottery in trade. Today trade is conducted with currency, but the ancient principle of trading thrives.
WEAVERS AND WEAVING
Weaving was a common and desired skill among the Spanish, Mexicans, and Pueblo Indians. Navajo learned the skill and surpassed their teachers, becoming famous and respected for their excellent weaving techniques, skill, and creativity.
The entire business of woolraising and herding sheep and shearing, carding, spinning, dyeing, and weavingprovided the Navajo with a needed economic boost.
At first the Navajo wove blankets to wear and trade with other tribes. But traders believed that qualityand better pricesdemanded new styles and designs, and rugs gradually replaced blankets.
Before the 1800s blankets were made of naturally colored woolwhite, brown, black, tan, or mixtures. In the 1870s new synthetic dyes produced vividly colored yarn, and weavers experimented with wild patterns. Hubbell encouraged the Navajo to weave designs from old rug patterns that he favored, with colors that included gray, black, white, and red. His legacy includes a distinctive style known as Ganado Red.
Today Navajo weaving is world-famous. Rugs and tapestries are bought and sold as investments, gifts, and home decor, and passed through generations to tell stories about The People, Diné.
The infamous Long Walk ended for the Navajo in 1868. A new way of life began on Navajoland with the presence of Indian agents, teachers, and missionaries who came to the reservation with their own ideas in mind, including acculturation of the Navajo into white culture.:
Hubbell and other traders who set up posts on the reservation were different. They didn't impose their beliefs, values, and systems onto an established native culture but sought a balance, one that profited their businesses, while respecting Navajo traditions.
Traders who arrived and stayed became friends of the community by learning local customs and languages and attending cultural events.
The trader was often the only contact the Navajo had with the world beyond their reservation. Over time the Navajo learned about and accepted white culture. This was, in part, because a trusted trader provided the local community with fair trade and a fair price. Today the Navajo are bicultural. They live in a modern American society while valuing and practicing their Navajo traditions.
A Glance Through Time
1864-1868 LONG WALK
Homestead on the High Plateau
Hubbell set a boundary by clearing and fencing his agricultural fields. He also used land beyond his claim, including Hubbell Hill, the reservoir, and canals that brought water to help make his ranch self-sufficient.
Today the National Park Service cares for Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in the midst of the Navajo Nation.
The Hubbell Trading Empire
EXPLORING BEYOND THE WALLS Start at the iron gate bearing John Lorenzo Hubbell's initials. It once separated the public trading area from the family's private space, but today the gate beckons you. Please come in and look around. Buildings and areas (below) contain notes that explain their functions.
In 1965 Congress made Hubbell Trading Post a national historic site with the understanding that it would remain a business operation, a working trading post. Hubbell Trading Post is alive in the true sense of the word. You can buy a pound of cowboy coffee or trade items like a Hopi basket, Navajo rug, or turquoise ring. Woosh Deeh.
SHED AND EQUIPMENT
HOGAN IN THE LANE
GATE AND PRIVACY WALL
JEWELRY AND RUG ROOMS
PUEBLO COLORADO WASH
VISITOR CENTER Start here for information, exhibits, a bookstore, and Navajo rug weaving demonstrations. Its is open daily except Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1. Seasonal hours vary.
GUIDED HOUSE TOURS Tours of the Hubbell Home are offered daily and limited to 15 people (fee). Pay for and meet your tour at the visitor center. Group tours require advance reservations.
SELF-GUIDING TOURS You are invited to explore on your own.
TIME ZONES The Navajo Reservation observes daylight-saving time, but the rest of Arizona and the Hopi Reservation do not. During that period, clocks at Hubbell Trading Post will read one hour ahead of clocks off the reservation, like at the Grand Canyon.
ACCESSIBILITY The visitor center, restrooms, and rooms in the trading post store are accessible for visitors in wheelchairs. Service animals are welcome.
SAFETY AND REGULATIONS Please follow these precautions. You are responsible for your own safety. • Watch where you walk; historic glass and nails are scattered about, and the ground can be uneven. • Watch your children. • Do not climb on fences or machinery. • Do not litter. • Pets must be leashed; they are not allowed in buildings. • Smoking is not allowed in buildings or near doorways. • Do not approach or feed animals, tame or wild. • All plants, animals, and natural and historic features are protected by federal law. • For firearms regulations check the park website. Emergencies: contact a ranger or call 911.
Source: NPS Brochure (2010)
Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards
An Administrative History: Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site (HTML edition) Southwest Cultural Resources Center Professional Papers No. 46 (Albert Manchester and Ann Manchester, 1993)
Arizona Explorer Junior Ranger (Date Unknown)
Assessment of Riparian-Wetland Conditions and Recommendations for Management, Pueblo Colorado Wash, Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Arizona NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/NRR—2010/213 (Joel Wagner and Richard Inglis, June 2010)
Cultural Landscape Report, Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site Intermountain Region Cultural Resources Selections No. 14 (Peggy Froeschauer-Nelson, 1998)
Farmlands History: Part I Water Crops, Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site (Charles S. Peterson, October 1983)
Geophysical and Archeological Investigations at Harry S. Truman National Historic Site, Independence, Missouri Midwest Archeological Center Technical Report Series No. 117 (Steven L. DeVore and William E. Altizer, 2008)
Geophysical Investigations and Monitoring of the HVAC Replacement Project Area at the Truman Farmhouse (Site 23JA638) within the Harry S Truman National Historic Site in Grandview, Jackson County, Missouri Midwest Archeological Center Technical Report Series No. 121 (Steven L. DeVore, 2009)
Homestead and Farm: A History of Farming at the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site (Charles S. Peterson, March 1, 1986)
Junior Arizona Archeologist (2016)
Junior Rangers, Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site (Date Unknown)
Mammal inventory for Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/SCPN/NRTR-2010/376 (Shauna Haymond and Richard E. Sherwin, September 2010)
National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form
Hubbell Trading Post (Albert H. Schroeder, December 13, 1961)
Navajo Pawn: A Misunderstood Traditional Trading Practice (Billy Kiser, November 1, 2010)
Soil Survey and Interpretations, Hubbell Trading Post Historical Site, Arizona (Earth Environmental Consultants, Inc., September 1978)
Soil Erosion Study, Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Ganado, Arizona (The Earth Technology Corporation, September 23, 1983)
Special Report on Hubbell Trading Post, Ganado, Arizona (Robert M. Utley, January 1959)
Vegetation Classification and Distribution Mapping Report: Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/SCPN/NRTR-2010/301 (David Salas, March 2010)
Vegetation Survey on Hubbell Trading Post, National Historic Site, Ganado, Arizona (Kancheepuram N. Gandhi, undated)
Wide Reed Ruin: Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site Southwest Cultural Resources Center Professional Papers No. 51 (James E. Mount, Stanley J. Olsen, John W. Olsen, George A. Teague and B. Dean Treadwell, 1993)
Handbooks ◆ Books
Last Updated: 11-Aug-2021