Fascinating Stories from Pioneer Families at Trading Posts in Farmington, NM

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In downtown Farmington, NM, the commercial hub of the Four Corners, and west toward Shiprock and beyond are trading posts where you can buy impressive art and crafts. You can also uncover fascinating histories of the pioneer traders and their families who have for generations lived and traded with their Native American neighbors. The Farmington Convention & Visitors Bureau has just published a list of trading posts in the Four Corners area available at its visitor’s center.

Trading Posts line the main streets of downtown Farmington, N.M.

Add. “We've learned from them; their history, their culture, and the things that they still respect and feel very meaningful to 'em…It's a lot that you get from their culture--more than we have to give.” Russell Foutz a quotable

For 140 years, trading posts in and near Farmington, NM have been direct conduits of southwestern Indian art. In these trading posts there are colorful rugs, baskets, pottery, and jewelry made by Navajo’s, Hopi’s, Zuni’s and other regional Native Americans. This work is bought today from Indian artisans for cash, but in past they traded for canned food, coffee, saddles, wool shears, wool dye and the like.

Trading posts, that 40 years ago were gathering places, post offices and a source of gossip and goods for barter, are today more likely to be galleries of native arts and crafts attracting visitors from around the world. What has not changed is the fine quality of work available, rugs, pottery, jewelry sandpaintings, baskets and paintings that are treasured.

The bonds among the old-time trader families and Indian craftsman are interwoven like the wool of a well-crafted Navajo rug. Most traders tell you that the centuries-old exchange has been cultural as well as financial. Russell Foutz from one of the oldest Farmington trading families explained it best in the United Indian Trading Association oral history. “We've learned from them; their history, their culture, and the things that they still respect and feel very meaningful to 'em… It's a lot that you get from their culture--more than we have to give.”

During the 20th Century traders from the Farmington, Gallup and northern Arizona formed The United Indian Traders Association to promote and improve their business practices. At the Association’s dissolution in 2002, the organization left behind funds to build a replica trading post in the Farmington Gateway Museum. Northern Arizona University received funds for an oral history project. The Oral histories of longtime trading families still in business today, many from Farmington and nearby, are part of this project. Listen and you will find the old time traders have fascinating tales to tell.

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