Traders, agents, weavers in book by McPherson
Local author Bob McPherson has recently published the history Traders, Agents, and Weavers: Developing the Northern Navajo Region (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2020).
The book centers around the story of Navajo economic and cultural development through the testimonies of traders, government agents, tribal leaders, and accomplished weavers.
For the first half of the twentieth century, trading posts dominated the Navajo economy in northwestern New Mexico.
McPherson highlights the Two Grey Hills post and its sister posts Toadlena and Newcomb, which encouraged excellence among weavers and sold high-quality rugs and blankets.
Parallel to the success of the trading industry was the establishment of the Northern Navajo or Shiprock Agency and Boarding School. The author explains the pivotal influence on the area of the agency’s stern and controversial founder, William T. Shelton and other agents.
Through cooperation with government officials, American settlers, and traders, Navajo weavers not only succeeded financially but also developed their own artistic crafts.
Shunning the use of brightly dyed yarn and opting for the natural colors of sheep’s wool, these weavers, primarily women, developed an intricate style that has few rivals.
Eventually, economic shifts, including oil drilling and livestock reduction, eroded the traditional Navajo way of life and led to the collapse of the trading post system.
For the Utah Reader, the agency at Shiprock controlled much of what happened in southeastern Utah. As a companion piece to the previous study, Both Sides of the Bullpen, Navajo Trade and Posts, the book Traders tells the tale of what was happening to the south which had a great influence on the culture and economy of the Utah Navajo.
Those interested in purchasing a copy can find them at the San Juan Record in Monticello, the USU Bookstore—Blanding Campus, and Back of Beyond Books in Moab.