Monday, July 15, 2013

Awesome Arizona - The Most Wonderful Person You've Never Heard Of

Arizona's topography startles the senses and befuddles the brain.  Are we in North Africa's windswept plains, a village in the Swiss Alps, or on a crater of the moon?  When you drive through this state, the changes and surprises occur every few miles.

Not only is the geography interesting, but the people who were shaped by these lands are fascinating too.  The Navajo (Diné meaning The People) roamed northeastern Arizona for centuries never minding the fierce winds or inhospitable land.  They traded with other Native Americans and relied on nature to provide for all their needs.  This sacred land, given to them by their forefathers, was all they required to lead meaningful, fulfilling lives.

Despite Spain's invasion in the 16th century that brought many challenges, it wasn't until the United States took possession of this area in 1846 that the trouble for the Navajo truly began. 

Pioneers, lured by the vague promise of gold in the mountains, were assured by US generals that they would be safe from the Navajo.  That promise led to heartache.  Under the leadership of Colonel Christopher "Kit" Carson, the Navajo's crops were burned, their livestock killed, and their women and children massacred.  While many Diné were able to evade capture, the prospect of starvation during a particularly cold winter led them eventually to surrender.

They thought the worst was behind them, but it had only just begun when more than 8,000 Navajos were forced to march over 300 miles.  The torture didn't end when they reached their destination because "The Long Walk" took them to a virtual prison in central New Mexico called Fort Sumner where inadequate food, disease, and intemperate weather further reduced their numbers over the years.

When a treaty was signed and the Navajo were finally allowed to return to their native lands in 1868, they found the remainder of their homes, crops and livestock destroyed.  Everything they had known was gone.
A typical hogan was built on the Hubbell property in 1950.
As the Navajos rebuilt their communities, it was imperative that they have some place to trade their baskets, blankets, jewelry, and rugs for the goods they needed.  Unless they found a way to do this, they were doomed.

Several traders stepped forward to answer the call although you can imagine the Diné's reluctance to have faith in the white man again.  But one man in particular earned their trust.

Goods for sale in the trading post, still active today.
John Lorenzo Hubbell opened his trading post in 1872 and quickly established a reputation for honesty and fairness.  He also acted as an ambassador, of sorts, for the government by interpreting policy for the Navajo.   Even more importantly, he was a friend to the Navajo.  When smallpox decimated the tribe, Hubbell offered his home as a hospital.  He wrote letters for them and mailed them from his post office, he settled their quarrels, and he offered good counsel whenever his advice was sought. 

For over fifty years, Hubbell was exactly what the Navajos needed most--a friend and confidante.  He restored their pride in their culture and provided the means for them to flourish after the almost total destruction of their homeland.  He may be one of the most wonderful people you've never heard of.
The Hubbell girls decided they needed more wall space for art, so they mounted the considerable basket collection on the ceiling!
Yet, despite his relative anonymity, the government was wise enough to realize the historical significance of Hubbell's contributions.  His trading post was designated a National Hisoric Site in 1965, and it was sold to the National Park Service in 1967.  Today, it continues to be an important part of the Navajo community.

You may never have heard of him, but John Lorenzo Hubbell,* the man who restored the Navajos' pride and livelihood, was truly one of the extraordinary people who helped shape the history of this most extraordinary state!  

Hubbell's home consists of six bedrooms, lining either side of the long living/dining room.  The extra bedrooms were necessary for the many guests the Hubbells entertained.
Practicalities -

*Hubbell was elected Arizona's first state senator when the state was admitted to the union in 1912.

The Hubbell Trading Post is just south of Ganado, Arizona.  Be sure to visit the Visitor Center where you can let the ranger know you are interested in a tour of the Hubbell home ($2.00 well spent).  Be sure to visit the still-active trading post where you will appreciate the artistry of the Navajo people.

The Navajo Nation follows daylight savings time unlike the rest of Arizona and the Hopi Reservation.  Remember that during the summer this area will be one hour ahead of the rest of Arizona.

No liquor can be bought or sold in the Navajo Nation.  If you will miss your evening glass of wine, be sure to bring it with you. 

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