In the spring of 1952, my husband, Tom, and I had to decide on a destination for our summer vacation. The goal was to explore a new area, with new adventures, within the continental United States. Our decision was to go West to the Navajo Indian Reservation and visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Monument Valley, and explore other areas yet unknown to us.
We were going to travel in our four-door 1948 Chevy, which was in good condition. However, we were totally unaware of the roads and non-roads we would have to travel, so the car barely survived.At the time, overnight accommodations were few and far between, so we decided to take sleeping bags, a Coleman stove, and other necessary items, including an emergency safety gas can, in case we wandered too far off of our course.
With all available road maps, we started on our way, crossing Indiana to Chicago, IL. There we turned onto Route 66 and traveled cross country to Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and finally crossed into Arizona. We left Route 66 to travel north to the Four corners area and then to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. After seven days of traveling on paved and unpaved roads, we finally reached our destination, the Thunderbird Ranch. We were greeted by Leon Hugh [Cozy] McSparron and Inja McSparron, the owners and Indian traders. After a hot shower and hot tea, we felt ready for our first Southwest adventure.
Our time with the McSparron's was intellectually expanding and physically challenging. Inja McSparron introduced us to the art of the Navajos and Navajo artists involved in silver work. With her guidance, we chose our first pieces of Navajo jewelry. We chose two beautiful silver bracelets and an older bracelet with three turquoise stones. They remain treasured pieces that I wear today. Cozy McSparron took us hiking into the deep red-walled Canyon de Chelly to explore the Anasazi cliff dwellings, the walls of beautiful and meaningful petroglyphs and pictographs, and to see the awe-inspiring 800-foot monolith, Spider Rock, along with the smaller monolith, Speaker Rock. The canyon is used by the Navajos, as it was hundreds of years ago. In the spring, corn, squash, and melons are planted, the perennial peach trees blossom, and the sheep and goats are herded for shearing.
To see Canyon del Muerto involved another steep hike, but worth every difficult step. The ancient ruins of Antelope House, a forty-room village, and the mummy cave are just a few of the historical sights to open one's imagination as to the life and culture that has evolved in the canyon.
After several days of exploring, we reluctantly had to say goodbye to the McSparrons and travel on to Goulding's Trading Post. Harry and Leona [Mike] Goulding started the Trading Post on the Navajo Reservation in a tent in the early 1920s and built the first log and stone home in 1927.
The Navajos living in the area had little money for food and clothing and few ways of earning a livable income. Harry and Mike Goulding were truly concerned for the health and welfare of the Navajos. Trading sheep, goats, wool, rugs, baskets, and jewelry for food and supplies was the beginning of a relationship that grew in trust and appreciation for each other.
In 1938, determined to raise the standard of living for the Navajos in the area and to advertise Monument Valley, the Gouldings traveled to Hollywood to persuade the movie producers to make western movies in the valley. In 1938, John Ford brought his cast and crew to the valley and filmed Stagecoach, an Academy Award-winning film. This success inspired Hollywood movie producers to use the Monument Valley area for additional western movies. As the Navajos were hired as members of the cast and crew, they were able to earn a monetary income making it possible to reach a higher standard of living.
On our way to Gouldings, the road or no road conditions became a challenge, so we were way behind our planned time schedule. Harry Goulding sent, on horseback, an elderly Navajo gentleman to find us. He was successful, and when we finally dug the fourth tire from the mud, we were on our way with our Navajo friend and his herd of sheep that followed along.
Harry and Mike Goulding greeted us warmly and treated us to a delicious supper of mutton stew, fry bread, and berry pie. Early the next morning, we were off to see Monument Valley.
What a sight! The magnitude and the glorious color of buttes were overwhelming. The buttes and arches reaching to meet the sky seemed magical and spiritual.
We spent several days exploring the area and meeting many of the Navajo families that live in the valley. Because of Harry and Mike Goulding's friendship with the Navajo families, we were greeted warmly, and the weavers were willing to share with us how a Navajo rug was woven. The process that has to be completed prior to the actual weaving involved many and varied steps.
Taking care of the sheep, shearing the sheep, cleaning the wool, carding the wool, spinning the wool, dyeing the wool with natural dyes, building the vertical loom, and stringing the warp had to be completed before weaving could begin. According to legend, Spider Woman taught the women how to weave on a loom that Spider Man created. The designs are the weavers' creations that are held in their minds and memory. This has continued through the years.
With the blessings of Harry Goulding, we set off for a day trip to Oljato Trading Post, [Place of the Moonlight Water], eleven miles of rutted dirt road into an isolated section of the Reservation. The traders, Ed and Virginia Smith, were very surprised to see us as very few non-Indians visit the Trading Post. It was like walking into a different era. The women were dressed in traditional velvet and satin, the men in jeans, brightly colored sateen shirts, and stovepipe hats. The store design was similar to a bullpen with canned food, merchandise, and supplies on shelves, 25-pound bags of flour and sugar stacked by the counter, and general items hanging from the ceiling.
The Navajos living in the area arrived at the Trading Post in buckboards and older trucks, often carrying large containers for fresh water. Meat, bread, and canned goods were available, along with suckers for the children and tobacco for the men. Milk and ice cream were an available treat when the supply truck was able to make a delivery. Along with general merchandise, all the necessary supplies and tools for the care of the sheep, goats, and horses were readily available. Credit was the main means of exchange, although the women brought their woven rugs, baskets, pitch jugs, and other hand-crafted items to the Trading Post that were purchased by the Smiths for resale. Our visit was generally hospitable, and we asked if, in the future, we might return. Through the years, Oljato, with the invitation from the Smiths, became our summer home on the Navajo Reservation. Living at the Trading Post was a cultural education as we made treasured Navajo friendships. As children, our daughters spent several years with us at Oljato. Our eldest learned how to serve the Navajos coming into the store for food and supplies, and our youngest enjoyed the company of the Navajo children while Tom was able to pump gasoline as needed.
Beginning in the fall, the women and children living in the Oljato area collect juniper berries and Russian Olive seeds to string into necklaces. To add color, at the suggestion and with a monetary gift from my husband, Tom, glass beads were ordered. Using various designs with the glass beads, combined with the Juniper berries and Russian Olive seeds, the women and children created a beautiful product that could be sold in gift shops on and off the Reservation, as they are today. As orders increased, the women received a monetary income or credit at the trading post that was used for family food, clothing, and supplies.
On a hot
summer day, Tom made the acquaintance of H. Jackson Clark, owner of the Pepsi Bottling
and Distribution Company located in Durango, Colorado. Jackson Clark traveled
the Reservation to deliver Pepsi to various Trading Posts. As he was highly
respected by the Reservation Traders and the Navajo weavers, he was able to
establish an economical trade arrangement directly with the Traders and, in
later years, directly with the weavers. Jackson Clark traded Pepsi for
rugs. The Traders bought the rugs from the weavers for cash or credit; in turn,
Jackson bought the rugs from the Traders for cash, credit, and Pepsi.
This arrangement made it possible for the Navajos to purchase more goods for
their daily needs while enjoying Pepsi, as drinking water was at a premium.
In turn, Jackson Clark sold the rugs to the National Park Stores, galleries, and retail outlets through gift shows which created an interest and new markets for the Navajo weavings. As the Navajo became more mobile, they would take their weavings to Jackson Clark's Toh-Atin Gallery in Durango, where they received cash for their selected quality rugs. Through the years, Clark, and his partner, Mark Winter, collected and preserved old and historical Navajo blankets and rugs. This magnificent collection became the Durango Collection and is displayed at Fort Lewis College, at the Center of Southwest Studies in Durango, CO. Toh-Atin Gallery, now owned and operated by Jackson Clark ll and his sister Antonia Clark carry the finest Native American and Southwestern art. H. Jackson Clark will always be remembered on the Navajo Reservation as: "Your Friendly Pepsi Man." He was a friend devoted to the betterment of the Southwestern Native Americans and their art.
Toh-Atin Gallery is one of the
largest and most respected galleries of Indian art in the Southwest. Their
focus today, as it was when Jackson Sr. started the business, is on providing
an income for the many artists they work with by preserving, protecting, and
promoting quality Native American arts and crafts.
During the summer of 1974,
while enjoying a Navajo taco at the Trading Post in Cameron, Arizona, we were
introduced to Jack and Billie Hutchinson, known and respected throughout the
Indian Reservations as prime traders and collectors of American Indian Art. At
this time, Indian jewelry and art were very desirable and collectible. We
realized that by working with the Hutchinsons, we would be able to place Indian
jewelry, Navajo rugs, and various additional Indian art into collections
in Ohio, our home State, and also the neighboring areas. By establishing
a new company, Southwest Exchange, we were successful in placing selected
jewelry, Navajo rugs, and other fine art into personal collections while
economically helping the Navajo and Zuni artists.
While working with the Hutchinsons, we were invited to spend time in Zuni with various silversmiths. Our Zuni guide, Kay Tinnin, arranged for us to spend privileged time with several artists: Dennis and Nancy Edaakie, Dinah Gasper, Anselm, and Rosita Wallace, Andrew Dewa, Albert and Dolly Banteah, and Bonnie Quam welcomed us into their homes and work areas, and in some instances, we were able to observe them at work. It was a fantastic experience to watch while various gemstones were chosen and creative designs were finalized into beautiful jewelry.
We also met Daisy Hooee Nampeyo, a master potter. Our daughters spent several hours with her learning the ins and out of making pottery, from digging the clay to making the pots, building the fire in the outside kiln, and processing the completed piece. Other ladies were baking the traditional bread in the outside ovens for use in the village bakery. Enjoying the warm bread was a delicious experience.
In the fall of 1975, Dick Smith, a South West bush pilot, who
was familiar with the Navajo weavers living in the isolated areas of the
Reservation, agreed to fly us into the area Trading Posts where we would be
able to purchase Navajo rugs. At the time, I was serving as the volunteer buyer
for the gift shop at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The Navajo rugs
would go into both personal collections and the collection of American
Indian art at the Museum. The weavers appreciated that we made the effort to
fly in as it increased their income and made it possible for them to continue
their art of weaving.
Driving through Sedona, Arizona, in 1976, we had the good
fortune of meeting William [ Bill] Garland at his newly opened store, Garland
Navajo Rugs. Through the years, he and his wife, Georgiana Isham, became treasured
friends and mentors. Bill's knowledge within all areas of Indian Art was an
inspiration to us. The Navajo weavers traveled miles in order to bring their
finest weavings to Bill Garland. The weavers knew that each piece had to be
their best, as his approval had set the standard of excellence. The weavers
were assured that Garland would purchase their work for a fair and acceptable
price. With a longstanding reputation for quality and fairness, Garland Indian
Rugs became a premiere gallery for Navajo rugs as it continues to be today.
Along with the Navajo weavers, Navajo silversmiths brought their work to
Garland. In order to accommodate the artists, Garland, with his son
Daniel [Dan], and his wife Tricia, opened Garland Indian Jewelry in 1985 in
beautiful Oak Creek Canyon. Today, both Galleries carry the finest work of
Southwest American Indian artists in all facets of their art, whether it be
vintage, traditional, or contemporary in era and design. Continuing in the
footsteps of his father, Dan Garland is highly respected by the Indians
for his friendship, knowledge, and appreciation of their artistic talents.
Every visit to either Gallery is an exceptional experience into the work and
talents of Native American artists.
Throughout several summers on the Navajo Reservation, Tom and I, along with our daughters, were able to explore many additional areas. We hiked the Grand Canyon and in Monument Valley, Wildcat Trail, ran the Colorado river, jeeped through the Canyon Lands, climbed through Slot Canyons, hiked the Praia Canyon, hiked to Havasu, enjoyed a houseboat on Lake Powell, hiked from Navajo Mt. Trading Post to Rainbow Bridge and back to the Trading Post, explored several of the many ancient ruins-Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, Canyon de Chelly, Keet Seal, Walnut Canyon, Wupatki and Montezuma Castle.
Trading Posts we have visited throughout our years on the Indian Reservations: Blue Mt. Cameron, Carson Trading Post, Foutz Teec Nos Pos Arts and Crafts, The Gap, Garlands Indian Rugs, Garlands Indian Jewelry, Gouldings, Hoel's Indian Shop, Hogback Trading Company, Hopi Arts and Crafts Co-op Guild, Hubbell Trading Post, Havaspi Reservation TP, Inscription House, Navajo Mountain, Old Oraibi Crafts, Oljato, Red Lake, Rough Rock, Round Rock, Shiprock Trading Company, Shonto, Sweetwater, Teec Nos Pos, The Gap, Tuba City, Wide Ruins.
My personal thanks and appreciation to all those involved in the creation of the collection: Cozy and Inja McSparron, Harry and Mike Goulding, Virginia and Ed Smith, Jack and Billie Hutchinson, Ruth Kiernan, Kay Tinnin, Dick Smith, H. Jackson Clark, H Jackson Clark II, William [ Bill] Garland, Daniel [ Dan] Garland and my ever supportive husband, Tom A. Bayless.