Trading

See how rugs are made at Hubbell Trading Post

When a woman wants to retire from a long and distinguished career so she can enjoy being a grandma, that usually doesn’t qualify as big news.

But when that woman is Ruby Hubbard, master weaver at Hubbell Trading Post, it reverberates through the surrounding communities.

For 14 years, Hubbard has created works of art in the form of Navajo rugs at the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in Ganado. She works at the upright floor loom in the visitor center demonstrating the skill, technique and patience that goes into each rug.

Travelers from around the world pause to watch. They ask questions and learn about weaving and cultural traditions. It has been one more way that Hubbell Trading Post stays connected to its rich past.

Ruby Hubbard, a Navajo weaver at Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona, started this Two Grey Hills rug in early July 2022. She plans to retire when it is complete, a process which usually takes four months or more.

But once Hubbard finishes the Two Grey Hills rug she’s working on now, she plans to retire. That should be sometime this autumn, possibly November.

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‘This is something you learn from your family’

The trading post is searching for another weaver to take Hubbard’s place but have not yet found anyone. Hubbard fears that weaving is a dying tradition on the Navajo Nation.

“This is something that you learn from your family. My grandmother was a weaver, my mother was a weaver, and I learned it from them,” says Hubbard.

For 14 years, Ruby Hubbard has been the master weaver offering demonstrations at the Hubbell Trading Post in Ganado, Arizona. This photo is from July 2022.

“That happens less these days and there’s so much technology out there to compete with. Young people just don’t have the patience that’s needed. And now more of them have jobs so I worry about it being carried on.”

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Who started Hubbell Trading Post?

Hubbell Trading Post is the oldest continuously operating trading post on the Navajo Nation. John Lorenzo Hubbell bought the post in 1878 and quickly earned a reputation for fairness and honesty in his business dealings, and his unfailing hospitality.

Nestled in the cottonwood trees alongside Pueblo Colorado Wash, the National Historic Site is part museum and part art gallery. Most importantly, it’s still a fully functioning trading post, virtually unchanged since its early days.

The store, or bullpen, at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in Ganado, Arizona, has changed very little over the past century.

Step inside and let your eyes adjust to the dim lighting. Scuffed wooden floors creak at every step. The cozy store is crowded with goods and spicy with aromas. Foodstuffs and supplies line the shelves. Counters are stacked with bolts of cloth and skeins of wool. Frying pans, horse collars and kerosene lanterns hang from the ceiling.

Adjacent to the store, a trader sits in the jewelry room, which also contains carvings, paintings, kachinas and clay work. On any given day, visitors might see a trade negotiated as local artisans bring in their work.

In a third room, gorgeous hand-woven rugs are stacked in casual piles and draped over wooden rails. Prices range from $50 all the way up to $10,000. The price is based on size, difficulty of the pattern and the artist who created it.

The visitor center at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in Ganado, Arizona, features exhibits, information and rug weaving demonstrations.

“Many visitors are surprised to find that Hubbell Trading Post operates much like it always has,” says Mindi Gusman, operations manager for Western National Parks Association. “We work hard to create an authentic experience and maintain the historical role the trading post has held for the local community and its visitors.”

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Ruby Hubbard, the Queen of Ganado  Red rugs

By the early 1800s, Navajo weavers were known for finely woven, nearly weatherproof blankets that became popular trade items. As machine-made blankets became available, the market began to dry up.

Ganado Red is a style of Navajo rug characterized by black borders and intricate designs.

Traders like Hubbell encouraged the weaving of rugs. He insisted on the highest quality and encouraged weavers to recreate designs of the past. His preference for the color red and passion for certain motifs led to the distinctive style of rug known as Ganado Red.

Ruby Hubbard has been called the Queen of Ganado Red because of her expertise in weaving the rugs with their red backgrounds, black borders and intricate designs.

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