Hubbell Trading Post
Administrative History
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During the mid-1970s a young trainee-ranger was on a tour of sites, parks, and monuments in the Southwest Region. The trip was part of his training, and during the tour he would inspect a place and then discuss his observations with the local superintendent and anybody else he cared to talk to. After the trainee's tour around Hubbell Trading Post, and over a cup of coffee with the site's superintendent, he mentioned that he was concerned about all the pickup trucks parked in front of the trading post. A visitor should see nothing but hitching racks for horses out there, he suggested. The pickup trucks, he noted, were not historically correct.

But, the superintendent pointed out, pickup trucks are how the Navajo get around these days. The only horses one might see parked out there would probably belong to Friday Kinlicheenie, an SPMA employee, because that's how he gets to work. If the trainee had wanted to see horses and wagons, he should have arrive fifty years earlier.

But wasn't the NPS trying to recreate an historic milieu here? If so, pickup trucks were jarring to the sensibilities.

The superintendent understood Hubbell Trading Post's mission in the Park Service. What you see here, he pointed out, is not made up. This is the real thing. This is where the Navajo have traded for the past century. The store hasn't changed much. It's not a museum. We're just trying to preserve and protect it. The business going on in the trading post is real, it is evolving, and it will cease when the Navajo no longer care to trade here. Then maybe we'll turn the place into a museum. We'll just have to wait and see about that.

But how do you interpret an ongoing business? the trainee asked.

That's a problem, the superintendent admitted. Most people, he said, including NPS employees, expect this place to be a museum. The trading post is unique in the Park Service. Before you can interpret it or plan for it, you have to understand what we're trying to do here. [1]

Interpretive Objectives (1980) [2]

1) To operate the trading post in a traditional manner, continuing as an agent of cultural exchange.

2) To present the significance of Hubbell Trading Post NH, illustrating the role and function of the Indian Trader, the trading post, and its evolution over time.

3) To encourage community use of the site, particularly among the Navajo population.

4) To maintain the cultural scene; at the grounds, the compound, the trading post, and in the surrounding farmland.

5) To emphasize personal services in the interpretive program, and to encourage the employment of Navajos to communicate the theme of intercultural relations.

6) To perpetuate historical trading post-related crafts, especially weaving and silversmithing.

This prospectus supersedes that of 1967. Although generally consistent with the 1967 prospectus, the one for 1980 tends more to stress the exchange of cultures that occurred at Hubbell Trading Post and other trading posts. Where the earlier plan had stressed the Hubbell's "baronial" lifestyle, the plan for 1980 incorporates the Navajo point of view in the interpretive program. Mr. Johnson Yazzie, Councilman of the Ganado Chapter, assisted in the preparation of the 1980 interpretive plan.

This plan appears to be consistent with present interpretive activities at the trading post. Except for item four; that is, parts of the training post will be maintained---the buildings, the artifacts---while other aspects of the site---business at the trading post, the farm scene (not active), the garden and other vegetation around the buildings---will change where there is irrigation water for the farmland, and somebody to grow a vegetable garden and tend to flowers and trees and shrubs around the trading post buildings. At the present time almost all of the land is barren, and this is neither historically correct nor attractive. With growing things around it, the trading post becomes a living entity rather than a dry monument to the past.

The following is taken verbatim from the Interpretive Prospectus Hubbell Trading Post NHS: [3]


A. The Role of the Typical Trader: Instrument of non-directed change.

- Supplier of Anglo goods.
- Distributor of Indian trade items.
- Supplier of credit.
- Intermediary between Navajo and government.
- Interpreter of government regulations.
- Employer
- Educator
- Promoter, host.
- Social services - medical care - undertaker.
- Example of Euro-American culture and value system.

B. John Lorenzo Hubbell, Trader.

- Relationship with the Indian community:
- Knowledge of Navajo culture.
- Friendship with many Navajos.
- Bicultural background (Hispanic-Anglo).
- Philosophy of fair dealing.
- Business acumen:
- Development of new markets.
- Encouragement of new crafts.
- Introduction of new techniques.
- Improvement of local farming techniques
- Political activities.

C. The Hubbell House.

- Family compound.
- Enclave of Spanish/Anglo culture.
- Adaptation of physical and cultural environment
- Child Rearing.
- Cultural Identity.

D. The Trading Post Complex:

- Continuing Economic Center.
- Continuing Social Center.
- Continuing Center of Exchange.
- Crafts and products.
- Ideas.
- Medical Clinic
- The Structures
- Trading Post, Wareroom, Wareroom Extension.
- Farm, Corrals, Barn, Chicken Coop, Grounds, Irrigation, System
- Bunkhouse, Guest Hogan, Hogan-in-the-Lane.

E. The Navajo:

- History, as related to the Site
- Military Conquest
- Long Walk.
- Culture.
- Effects of trade.
- Continuing process of acculturation.

Hubbell Trading Post receives over 200,000 visits a year, of which approximately one fifth are Navajo who come to trade. In 1967, most of the customers were either Navajo or other residents Ganado. The Navajo who now visit the site probably already know as much as they want to about trading posts, their grandparents and great grandparents traded there; it seems likely that not all of the Navajo regarded Indian traders as the greatest thing since the discovery of corn. Few Navajo take advantage of the tours, fewer still wander around the grounds. Of the thousands of tourists who show up at the trading post, it can be assumed that almost none of them knows anything about the Navajo, trading posts, or traders. In fact they may be burdened with misconceptions. Few tourists stay long; however, even the most informal observation of tourist activities will reveal that almost everybody gets into the trading post. Only about ten percent of the people go to the visitor center, the only place where they can find free brochures that describe the trading post. During any year, only about ten thousand people take advantage of the tour of the Hubbell home. In winter four tours a day are offered, two in the morning, two in the afternoon; during the summer, there can be as many as six tours per day. The size of a tour is limited to fifteen people. And, depending on the guide, the information about the Hubbell family and trading posts can be wildly different. Once the group has left the kitchen, where the tour ends, few people stroll around the grounds.

The average tourist is at the site less than an hour. With a good guide on the tour of the home, they might hear most of the ideas expressed in the Outline of Interpretive Themes. Otherwise, they may go away almost as ignorant about trading posts as when they arrived. The Visitor Center contains books and brochures, a display of trader artifacts, all of which were salvaged at Hubbell, and there are Navajo women present most days to give demonstrations of weaving. A Navajo silversmith has a workbench there as well, and there is an information desk. Although it seems likely that not many visitors learn a lot about traders and trading posts, they can probably learn as much as they want to learn.

It has been suggested in the past that the Navajo clerks in the trading post might help with interpreting the site. Classes were held that were attended by NPS and SPMA employees. None of the SPMA employees is now learning anything about interpretation, although it seems unlikely that any of them would avoid a question put to them by a visitor. It is explained that the culturally induced difference of the Navajo prevents them from being particularly forward with visitors. In any case, it appears that virtually all of the tourists take the clerks to be what they are, clerks, and seldom take advantage of the opportunity to engage them in conversations about the rise and fall of the trading post, the Long Walk, or the nuances of the Navajo verb.

Kevin McKibbin said he and his staff had a lot of fun trying to liven up the post. They brought in retired horses and mules from the Grand Canyon so that the animals would have a place to end their days in relative serenity while at the same time they would help interpret the site. During its heyday, Hubbell Trading Post always had animals on the premises. McKibbin got the chicken coop whipped into shape. Three young turkeys were bought over in Gallup and they grew up to be big, white, ornery turkeys. But ornery or not, the turkeys were popular with the visitors. During the turkeys' third year at the post, they started waiting outside the kitchen door of the Hubbell home to greet the visitors as they exited the building after the tours. However, when a turkey attacked the woman who was guiding one of the tours, McKibbin decided that they had gotten to be too ornery for their own good; the turkeys went on a one-way ride back to Gallup. Besides the recalcitrant turkeys, the staff in those days had a peacock and pea hens strutting around the trading post. [4] McKibbin wasn't particularly concerned about whether or not the creatures were "historically accurate." Without changing the basic fabric of the trading post, the NPS staff were able to provide a colorful background for the visitors.

The Origin of Hubbell Trading Post's Annual Chicken Report

Not every superintendent has been so concerned about whether or not the trading post looked lively. Although the superintendent of the Navajo Lands Group kept "hinting" that Hubbell Trading Post needed some chickens to help make the site look a little more like it had before the National Park Service took over, the trading post's superintendent would take no action on the matter. (In the very early days of Hubbell Trading Post as a national historic site, it was part of the Navajo Lands Group.) On Christmas Eve, the general superintendent of the Navajo Lands Group acquired a rooster and four hens, put them in a box, and had the ranger from Hubbell Trading Post meet him about fifteen miles up the road. While the rooster and hens were being transferred to the ranger's car, the general superintendent told him what to do with them.

The ranger drove the birds back to Hubbell Trading Post and put them in the wareroom. He put water and feed into the box for them. Then he tied surveyor's flagging tape to the box containing the roosters and hens, ran the tape out of the wareroom and all the way around the trading post and over to the superintendent's quarters, and tied that end of the tape to the superintendent's doorknob.

Christmas dawned on a peaceful Hubbell Trading Post. The superintendent stepped outside to greet the day...and found flagging tape tied to his doorknob. He followed it around the trading post and into the wareroom, and there he discovered that he was no longer chickenless. At least one of his presents that morning was a surprise.

And that is how chickens came back to Hubbell Trading Post, and that is the origin of Hubbell Trading Post's Annual Chicken Report.

Cultural Interpretation

Some Navajo do take the tour through the house, so it is imperative that the guides have some knowledge of Navajo history and culture. Terry Maze, the second historian to work at Hubbell Trading Post, learned as much as he could about Navajo culture. He recalled that when he would take Navajo through on the tour, and he might comment about the Navajo in some general way, as to why they did this or that, or what might be their beliefs, he would be gratified to see them nodding in agreement. He was told that he was accurate, and that what he had to say was appropriate. He was careful to discuss the Navajo and their culture and beliefs without making any judgments. [5]

Terry thought that some NPS people might have problems at Hubbell Trading Post because they cannot appreciate or comprehend that there are other ways of life than what they are used to, or they may arrive there with some preconceived ideas as to what the Navajo are like. It is most important, he believes, for any NPS employees at Hubbell Trading Post to learn something about the Navajo culture. Although the NPS is trying to interpret the trading post for the visitors, interpretation here is, as it has been since the 1870s, something of a two-way street, Anglo-Americans learning as much as they can about the Navajo way, the Navajo studying the Anglo-Americans and the Hispanics, culling from those cultures whatever they might be able to use their own. Hubbell Trading Post continues in its ancient role as an outpost where differing cultures come together for mutual benefit. The mission of the National Park Service and its partner there, Southwest Parks and Monuments Association, is to get the idea across that Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is an important living institution, not just a rug and trinket shop with an antique decor.

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Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006