Back in 1957, when my father, Jackson Clark Sr., started buying and selling Navajo weaving, he was also in the Pepsi Cola business. When he went to his first wholesale show, the Los Angeles Gift and Jewelry Show, the show manager asked him what his company name was. He told them it was the Jackson David Bottling Company. It was named after him and his partner, Dave McGraw.
The manager of the gift show told him she didn’t think anyone would buy Navajo rugs from a bottling company and suggested that he call it the Jackson David Trading Company. So he did.
The first show he attended was in the Biltmore Hotel in LA. He took more than one hundred weavings to the show and had just set up when John Kennedy Sr., of the Gallup Indian Trading Company, came by and “offered to buy all of the rugs and told me I could just go home,” according to the story my father shared.
He thanked Mr. Kennedy, and told him he thought he’d stick around for the show. Almost 60 years later, Navajo weavings are still the cornerstone of our business! He later became friends with Kennedy and most of the other traders who were taking Indian arts and crafts to the markets.
Later that year, Kennedy called him and suggested that he join the United Indian Traders Association, telling him it was a good group and that, as a quality trader, he should be part of the group.
I remember that my father’s advertising said, “Member, United Indian Traders Association.” He put that right under the slogan he used: “Your Friendly Navajo Rug Man.”
Over the years, membership in the United Indian Traders declined as reservation trading posts went out of business. By 1997, there were only a few members left. They got together, voted to disband and to donate the considerable amount of money they had in their treasury to several worth causes including a day care center in Gallup and the Cline Library at the University of Northern Arizona. All of the organization's papers and records went to the Library.
Esther and Bertha Harvey
One of the programs they funded at the Library was an oral history project that allowed the special archives and collections department to conduct and record oral histories of Indian traders, their families and important Navajo Tribal leaders.
My father had passed away by the time most of these recordings were made, so his stories are not there. But many of the old time traders sat down with interviewers and recorded their stories, including John Kennedy Sr. The names of the people who were interviewed include legends in Navajo Trading: Tanner, Wheeler, McGee, Blair, Hefflin, Foutz and many other families.
It was a wonderful project. The information is timeless and informative. It tells a story of a time long gone. The good news is that, through the generosity of the old UITA , these interviews are available to everyone.
You can read or listen to these interviews at the Cline Library.
Many of dad's stories were included in his book, "The Owl In Monument Canyon." The book is out of print, but it can be found on Amazon or we have used copies at the gallery for $30 each.
United Indian Traders Organization existed from 1931 until 1997. Their goals were:
to promote improved business practices among Indian traders, arts and crafts dealers, Indians, and all related agencies;
to promote, encourage, and protect the manufacture and sale of genuine Indian handmade arts and crafts; and
to promote the general welfare of those engaged in the business of Indian trading, as well as the welfare of the Navajo Indians and all other Indians of North America.
Today, others are trying to promote the same goals. The Indian Arts and Crafts Association, The Southwest Association for Indian Arts, the Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association, The Heard Museum Guild and countless reputable dealers across the country, are working to promote quality Native American arts and crafts.
Some of the finest examples of traditional American Indian arts are being made today. In addition, many contemporary artists are breaking new ground.
But it is good to remember that Native American Art would not be where it is today without the contributions of people like the traders whose oral histories were preserved because of the gift from the United Indian Traders Organization.
Give a listen, you’ll enjoy hearing these people tell their stories.
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Jan Penney-Arazaposted on Monday, May 13, 2019 1:46 PM