During the second half of the 1880s, entrepreneurs set up trading posts on many Indian reservations to supply everything from food staples and tobacco to farming equipment. Many times the traders accepted animal furs, Indian artwork, and crafts in lieu of cash for payment.
One of the most famous of these trading posts was the one operated by John Lorenzo Hubbell at Ganado, Arizona. Unlike many traders, who took advantage of their customers, Hubbell had a good relationship with the Navajo people, and they shared a mutual respect. Hubbell became the foremost Navajo trader of his time, building a trading empire that included stage and freight lines, as well as trading posts. Eventually Hubbell and his two sons owned 24 trading posts, a wholesale house in Winslow, and other business and ranch properties.
Hubbell had an enduring influence on Navajo rug weaving and silversmithing, consistently demanding and promoting excellence in craftsmanship.
Established in 1878, Hubbell family members operated the Ganado trading post until it was sold to the National Park Service in 1965. While the property is managed by the Park Service as a National Historic Site, the trading post store is still active, and operated by Western National Parks Association, a non-profit association that continues the trading business of the Hubbell family.
While the store still stocks a few basic grocery items and snacks, today the inventory is mostly Navajo rugs and tapestries, Indian jewelry, and crafts.
Besides the trading post itself, and the Hubbell family home, the complex includes a National Park Service Visitor Center that has a small book store, and a loom where Navajo women demonstrate the weaving skills. Unfortunately, we arrived just as the demonstration ended.
The Hubbell family home houses the family’s private collection of Southwestern art and Native American arts and crafts. The Park Service brochure says the home is available for guided tours, but it was closed during our visit. The woman on duty in the Visitor Center, who had all of the personality of a toad, really didn’t offer any information on what the actual tour hours are, since they don’t seem to follow the information in the Park Service brochure.
We spent some time poking around in the trading post store, admiring the beautiful Navajo rugs and the silver and turquoise jewelry on display.
Unlike the woman in the Visitor Center, the two ladies working in the store were very friendly and helpful. We didn’t purchase anything, because when you live in an RV, space is always a limitation. But there were a couple of weavings that Miss Terry sure wanted to take home with her.
I had a good time just taking pictures of all of the neat stuff on display inside the trading post, as well as outside.
Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is located on U.S. Highway 264, a mile west of its junction with U.S. 191 in Ganado. It is 37 miles from Ganado to Interstate 40. Summer hours at Hubbell Trading Post are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, from April 30th to September 8th. Winter hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily from September 9th through April 29th.
There is a very short, sharp turn off the highway and it would be difficult for large RVs. When we arrived there was an eighteen wheeler in the parking lot dropping off supplies, and it did not go out the main entrance. But the woman in the Visitor Center just gave me a blank stare when I asked about RV access. I guess she was having a bad day, and my presence didn’t help it any.
Thought For The Day – Opportunities always look bigger going than coming.
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Thanks for the great pictures and info. I ran and got out the atlas to see where the trading post was. I was surprised to see the trading post listed on the map the same as a town would be. It’s very easy to find and we’ll stop there this fall on our way through AZ. Thanks again for the great travel info.
We were there just after Easter 2008 with a 40ft MH & toad. got in fine Altho there was not alot of people there & so not alot of cars in our way. Yes it was a very interesting visit. Enjoyed your pix Nick.
Thanks for the pictures it seems that we missed a great area to investigate. I agree with Terry the tapestry is beautiful, but alas no room in the motor home. It is fun just to wander through this type of stores. Maybe we will be able to visit them when we are in AZ for the Gypsy Gathering.
Gee Nick…they did sell earings…won’t take up space either. Miss Terry should have bought a pair…I know I would. And to the FedExMan, pffft! What’s money for anyways?
Great article with great photography. With you in control it’s like being there. I don’t remember the tight turn going in to the trading post but I do remember that the parking lot was rather small if you factor in a dozen or so Class A’s with dinghys. There must be another entrance because when we there a few years ago we were about halfway through the visitor center tour and really enjoying ourselves along with just a few other visitors. All of a sudden we could not move! We couldn’t go forward we couldn’t go backward. We were literally being walked over. I told Carol, “Let’s get the heck outta here!” When we got outside we saw what was going on. There were two huge tour busses that found a way in. What do those things carry? Forty – fifty people each? I think the drivers should have advised their passengers to spread out to the ranch house, store or visitor center. But NOOOOOO. When one visits a new place where does one start? At the visitor center right? Right. We had a little bit of time to enjoy the trading post in peace before we were pushed and elbowed right out of store. It was almost time fot them to get back on the bus. What a way to see America. No thanks We finished reading the brochure on the way back to Holbrook.
I enjoyed your observations about Hubbell and your accurate account of the colorful history of the trading post.
I am an editor with Western National Parks Association, a non-profit established in 1938, which operates the trading post. We also run the bookstores in 65 other national park visitor centers throughout the West. You RV folks should head up to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana or down to Pecos National Historical Park in New Mexico where a new unit of the park is the site of the Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass, known as “the Gettysburg of the West.”
Check out the Western National Parks Association website, http://www.wnpa.org, for publications about each of the parks we support. If you plan a visit to any one, we’ve got the resource material you need to better enjoy your visit. And proceeds from book sale are donated to the national parks for research, education, and interpretation at the parks.
Nick, your blogs the last two days have me planning our own trip to Hubbel Trading Post and Canyon de Chelly for this fall when we go to Arizona for the winter. To be honest, I had never heard of either place. Now I can’t wait to see them both! Thanks for telling us about them and the great pics.
Sounds like the same woman on duty at the visitor center when we were there a couple of weeks back. It was like pulling teeth to get any answer out of her. I asked about the Passport books because I wanted to get one after reading your blogs and she seemed to have no idea what I was talking about. I asked about any local campground and she said we couldn’t park there. I told her I knew that, I just wanted to know of any campgrounds in the area. She just repeated that we couldn’t patk there. They really need to train and/or screen some of the workers at public places like this if they are going to be the representatives of the Parks service. The people at Canyon de Chelly visitor center were much more helpful.
Nick: Just want to comment about your encounter with the visitor center employee at Hubbel. My wife and I have worked in various national park visitor centers for the last 14 seasons we’ve been on the road. We both have enjoyed our time giving out all the information to the park visitors. There is a fine art to providing the information to our visitors since we know that we don’t want to keep you too long, but we do want you to have all the information you need to enjoy your stay too. So, as long as you are asking questions, we will help you to the best of our abilities. We have worked in some very busy parks (Yellowstone & Grand Teton) where we have 2-5,000 visitors a day depending on the time of year. We all have bad days occasionally but most of us try to hide it as best we can. Too bad that lady at Hubbell wasn’t trained to do that. I definately hope that when you make it up to Wyoming, you encounter better help than you had there. I’ve run into those situations too and I just cringe when I get lousy answers to my questions.
Just a little side note. In our training, we are told that we are to treat each visitor as if this is their very first visit to the area even if they have been there many times before or not. Both my wife and I love the national parks and we want all of the visitors to love them too.