Magazine article Sunset

Investing in the Future of Navajo Art

Magazine article Sunset

Investing in the Future of Navajo Art

Article excerpt

An Arizona trading post weaves history into the 21st century

* With beauty all around me, I walk. Words from the Navajo Night Chant, heart of an ancient healing ceremony, resonate in memory as I wander through Arizona's Hubbell Trading Post. All around me: Inch-long fetishes, exquisite microsculptures of bears and badgers. Squash-blossom necklaces, their turquoise pips exploding from silver shells. Hand-woven rugs with patterns so intricate that if you stare too long you could fall into the geometry and never find a way out.

The pine floor creaks with each step, reminding me how deep history runs here. The post has operated without interruption since John Lorenzo Hubbell opened it in 1878; it became a national historic site in 1967. In one room, Navajos buy everyday necessities: work gloves, ropes, cornflakes. In two others, visitors shop and jaws drop at both beauty and its price.

"Is this $75?" asks a tourist, squinting at a small Hopi pot. At the answer--"No, $750"--his eyes widen.

Bill Malone, a friendly 60-year-old in black cowboy boots, jeans, and a flannel shirt, runs the trading operation from a cubicle cluttered by paperwork, draped with rugs, and overseen by a portrait of Teddy Roosevelt--once a Hubbell guest. …

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