Tuesday, February 7, 2012


In 1878, ten years after Navajos were allowed to return to their homeland from their U.S.-imposed exile in Bosque Redondo, New Mexico, ending what is known in Navajo history as the "Long Walk of the Navajo", John Lorenzo Hubbell bought a trading post. It was established on a homestead along an old trade route on the southern banks of the Pueblo Colorado Wash, located in Ganado, Arizona.
Hubbell bought the small buildings comprising the compound from another trader, and set up business. He was twenty three years old, single and he was trying to make a living among the Navajo, a people he did not know very well.  He probably learned "trader Navajo" very quickly.  John Lorenzo was trilingual, speaking English, Spanish and Navajo.
When the Navajos returned, they found their herds decimated, their fields destroyed - their way of life had been ripped apart and life would never be the same. Trade with men like Hubbell became increasingly important for the Navajos.  (The walls and ceilings of the interior of the post are hung with old baskets, rugs, small framed photos of rug weaving designs, pottery, etc. from long ago - a feast for the eyes.  Photography is permitted inside, without flash...hence, the blurrier photos.  Many newer, Navajo made items are available for purchase.  There is also a Visitor Center run by the Parks Department, where you can find more history regarding the post and the surrounding area.)
The trader was in contact with the world outside the newly created reservation; a world which could supply the staples the Navajos needed to supplement their homegrown products. In exchange for the trader's goods the Navajos traded wool, sheep, and later on rugs, jewelry, baskets, and pottery. It was years before cash was ever used between trader and Navajos.
Heavy sandstones from the area were quarried in 1883 for construction of the trading post.  Construction of the trading post barn began in 1897, and was completed in 1900. The walls are of the same local sandstone and the roofs were fashioned in the style of ancient Anasazi dwellings.
Mr. Hubbell homesteaded 160 acres before they were part of the reservation and territory. When the reservation expanded, it surrounded the Hubbell property. Through an act of Congress Mr. Hubbell got permission to keep his homestead. Additions to the family home to accommodate the growing family were finished in 1902. It started out as a plain adobe building which the Hubbell family gradually made into a comfortable, and in some ways, luxurious home. Paintings, artifacts, and many large Navajo rugs still decorate the interior.
The guest house was built in the early 1930s, in the shape of a Hogan (“hoe-gone”…Navajo for home). Most hogans are built of logs, and the door always faces the east. Hogans are one room dwellings and usually have six or eight sides. Mr. Hubbell built several traditional hogans on the grounds for the Navajos who came long distances to trade.
The corrals of the trading post held lambs and sheep purchased from the Navajo. The flocks stayed in the corral complex until they could be herded to the railroad. Freight wagons brought supplies to the store from the little railroad town of Gallup, two to four days of one way travel in good weather. Going back to Gallup, freight wagons hauled huge sacks of wool.

The cone shaped hill located northwest of the trading post is known as “Hubbell Hill”. The family cemetery lies quietly at the top. Mr. Hubbell died in 1930. Members of his family continued to operate the trading post until 1967, when it was sold to the National Park Service. The trading post is still active today, and operated by the non-profit organization, Western National Parks Association, which maintains the trading traditions the Hubbell family established.
Channelling old John Lorenzo, or perhaps just pondering the sights of the day and looking forward to what's on down the road...next stop, Flagstaff and Sedona.


Jackie said...

Wow, cool place!! Love the weather you are having as well!

Ahl Cooped Up said...

What an awesome trip! I love the history lesson.
The baskets are amazing.

Dorthe said...

A wonderful post again dear Tanya, I love all you tells, and shows. This story about Hubbell and how he built a great bussines for him and for the Navajo`s is very exiting to read about. And the buildings are so pitorisque there in the desert- Thankyou for this little piece of history from the past.

Cindy said...

I am loving your posts about your trip! So insightful and the photos are beautiful. I love the huge rock with the hole in it! Can't wait to see Sedona!