After an awe-inspiring day at Canyon de Chelly on Saturday, we were beyond ready for a another adventure. While this one was on a slightly smaller scale, we still got a lot more than we bargained for (in a good way).
Baskets on the Ceilings, Rugs on the Floors
The day started off early with a quick breakfast and an hour and a half drive to Arizona, through the beautiful Navajo National Forest, to visit the J. L. Hubbell Trading Post. Over the course of our tour of the house and out-buildings, we learned that Hubbell was one of the most influential traders in the Southwest at the turn of the century. He was quite the household name, being close friends with Teddy Roosevelt and setting a precedent for civil and fair treatment of the Native Americans of that time. Even his personal preference when it came to Navajo rugs and other art pieces changed the designs used by Navajo weavers and artists today.
The National Park Service still keeps a number of farm animals on the grounds as well as a team of workers to keep the Hubbell House appearing almost as it did “back in the day”.
With a general store running out of the old trading post, the rusty farm equipment scattered throughout the grounds and the pervasive mud, it almost felt like we were experiencing the Hubbell Trading Post as it once was. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing and experiencing Navajo culture and traditions, but, at least for me, the trading post reminded me of a whole other dimension to Navajo heritage, their relationship with white settlers and traders. To this day, the history of the Navajo people has been forever changed by the presence and actions of white people. This is something I've read about in history books many a time, but by being given a glimpse of the scars the Navajo people still bear, it’s become a lot more real. While I could never fully understand the effect white settlers and traders had, it has become a lot more personal.
Secret Trail: Successfully Unlocked
From the Hubbell Trading Post, we went for a bit more of a lighthearted adventure to Window Rock Park on our way back through Arizona. Window Rock has long acted as the governmental center (or as Deborah called it, “the Navajo Washington D.C.”) of the Navajo people. The day had turned sunny, so we had fantastic weather to eat lunch in the park and hike around on a somewhat-secret trail beyond Window Rock, as per the suggestion of a kind old lady walking around the park's main pathway. While our hike wasn’t as extensive as the previous day, the rock formations around Window Rock were gorgeous and it was delightful to be able to explore the area around them (some of us even encountered some new flora and fauna, identified by Hannah and Deborah). The park also featured a war memorial to the Navajo Code Talkers- a few of which Deborah knew- and many of which died without being recognized for their contribution to society and to the ultimate allied victory in WWII until much later.
The Presidential Treatment
Our outing ended on a much calmer note at the El Rancho historical hotel back in Gallup. The sign outside the hotel advertises it as an establishment with the “charm of yesterday, convenience of tomorrow,” and boy, did that ever hit the nail on the head. El Rancho used to be the hotel for hosting famous Western movie actors during their shoots.
It still feels that way, as if John Wayne should be sitting at the bar or Jane Wyman should be making a reservation at the hotel restaurant. While El Rancho's fame has waned, we enjoyed exploring the distinctive decor and perusing the names on the room doors (each room is named after and actor or actress who stayed there). Deborah, with her infinite connections, even got us into the Ronald Reagan Presidential suite, and we were able to end our excursion freaking out about the closet space and the coffee maker in the bathroom. We had to be going, but first...let us take a selfie.
After a long tiring day, we treated ourselves to grilled cheese and soup and ended the evening like every other, with a Harry Potter movie. After a week of feeling constantly busy with school and seminar, it was wonderful to be able to explore and learn more about the area. This weekend’s adventures should tide us over until next weekend, which I’m sure will be equally fantastic. For now, we have another promising week of teaching ahead of us. I can’t wait to see what see what it will bring.
-Olivia and Hannah