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Along Navajo Trails

Recollections of a Trader 1898-1948

Will Evans edited by Susan E. Woods and Robert McPherson

Publication Year: 2005

Will Evans's writings should find a special niche in the small but significant body of literature from and about traders to the Navajos. Evans was the proprietor of the Shiprock Trading Company. Probably more than most of his fellow traders, he had a strong interest in Navajo culture. The effort he made to record and share what he learned certainly was unusual. He published in the Farmington and New Mexico newspapers and other periodicals, compiling many of his pieces into a book manuscript. His subjects were Navajos he knew and traded with, their stories of historic events such as the Long Walk, and descriptions of their culture as he, an outsider without academic training, understood it. Evans's writings were colored by his fondness for, uncommon access to, and friendships with Navajos, and by who he was: a trader, folk artist, and Mormon. He accurately portrayed the operations of a trading post and knew both the material and artistic value of Navajo crafts. His art was mainly inspired by Navajo sandpainting. He appropriated and, no doubt, sometimes misappropriated that sacred art to paint surfaces and objects of all kinds. As a Mormon, he had particular views of who the Navajos were and what they believed and was representative of a large class of often-overlooked traders. Much of the Navajo trade in the Four Corners region and farther west was operated by Mormons. They had a significant historical role as intermediaries, or brokers, between Native and European American peoples in this part of the West. Well connected at the center of that world, Evans was a good spokesperson.

Published by: Utah State University Press

Cover

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pp. i-ii

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Photographs

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pp. vii-ix

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Foreword

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pp. xi-xiii

In 1948 Will Evans closed his trading post at Shiprock, New Mexico, for the last time. In leaving its “bull pen” trading room, he walked away from a half century as a Navajo trader, from a fraternity of businessmen who lived more intimately than perhaps any other European Americans with the Navajos, during one of that remarkable people’s most challenging and successful periods. Like others of the trader fraternity, Evans was confident he knew “his Indians”—the families and clans that traded at his ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiv-xv

Those who have traveled unknown trails are familiar with surprise, exhilaration, and occasional disappointment encountered along the way. The evolution of this book has followed such a path, spanning eighty years and three generations of the Evans family to reach its final goal. The time may seem excessive, but the trail has led to something important—the preservation of a piece of Navajo history otherwise forgotten. The path began in the Shiprock area, long before Will Evans put pen to paper. He began ...

Introduction

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pp. 1-

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Will Evans, Trader to the Navajos

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pp. 2-35

The American Southwest has been a place of sharp images and contrasting cultures. Starting with the prehistoric then historic Native Americans, moving to Spanish entradas and settlement, continuing through the Mexican period with the entrance of the Anglo-American, and ending with today’s metropolises, a colorful saga of expansion and growth has played against a backdrop of antiquity and stability. Indeed, one of the most prominent appeals used in tourism and sales promotion is to call upon ...

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Starting Along the Trail

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pp. 36-50

Imagine. It is December 1917. By obscure starlight, you thread your horse along a trail over a sage-covered plain. Shiprock, framed against the Carrizo Mountains, is dark, darker than you remember from the last time you passed this way, but a thin shaft of light in the distance serves as a polestar for your journey. A few wisps of snow swirl about your horse’s hooves before sifting through the brush on their way to an eddy at the base of a pinyon tree. The freezing wind at your back causes a shiver and gives one more reason to adjust your coat’s collar.

Events

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pp. 51-

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Views of History around the Four Corners

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pp. 52-113

On a long, low, arid ridge near the south bank of the dry Escavada Wash, there stands a small, male-Navajo hogan. The humble home is about seventy-five miles south of Farmington and a few miles east of the ancient ruins of Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon. The structure is surrounded by a dry country of rolling hills and waterless arroyos. Desolation encompasses the region from horizon to horizon no matter the direction one travels in the penetrating waves of summer heat.

People

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pp. 115-

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Navajos I Have Known

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pp. 116-177

When establishing white communities close to Indian populations, there always arose an individual who stood out above the rest. He was the one who dealt with the white settlers in matters of interracial harmony, which was not always friendly. But whether the negotiations were peaceful or conflicting, one of the Navajos would arise to a position of prominence and be remembered long afterwards for his part in these relations.

Culture

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pp. 179-

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Daily Life and Customs of the Navajo People

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pp. 180-234

People often ask how long I have lived in Navajo country. I joke that when I first arrived, Shiprock was just a small mound and has since grown to its present size. Since 1893, my first year in this region, I have pursued my hobby of studying the Navajos, their religion, traditions, habits, and customs. It soon becomes evident that the land and environment have had a lot to do with the secular and religious life of these people.

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Postscript: The Death of a Man, the End of an Era

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pp. 235-238

As Evans prepared to celebrate his seventy-seventh Christmas, he passed from this life. On December 6, 1954, the white community of Farmington and the Navajo community surrounding Shiprock became aware of his death. His obituary announced that he had died quietly after several months of failing health. But it was a peaceful farewell, as his wife, Sarah, three sons—Ralph, Richard, and David—and daughter, Gwen, paid their last respects.

Appendix: Publications by Will Evans

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pp. 239-241

Notes

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pp. 242-258

Index

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pp. 259-264


E-ISBN-13: 9780874215236
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874216066

Publication Year: 2005