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Navajo Trading
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Beginning in the 1870s peddlers began to travel by wagon onto the Navajo Reservation to barter their wares for wool, a few sheep, a rug, or a piece of silver jewellery. By the early years of the twentieth century, barter developed into an exchange of culture and services: in addition to serving as a place where Navajo jewellery and rugs changed hands, trading posts acted as grocery stores, banks, post offices, and railroad hiring offices. Traders were the link between Anglo-American culture and the Navajo people. At first agents of change, by 1950 they had become maintainers of tradition and hence obstacles to modernisation. Today, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, trading posts are obsolete. This overview of Navajo trading is the first to examine trading in the last quarter of the twentieth century, when changes in both cultures led to the investigation of trading practices by the Federal Trade Commission, ultimately resulting in the demise of most traditional trading posts. Based on archival research and on interviews with traders, Navajos, and lawyers who worked for the Navajo tribe, this fair-minded narrative includes eloquent testimony from many interested parties. Powers writes about the difficulties and the delights of the life of a trader and shows the ethical and political reasons for the FTC hearings as well as the differences between good and bad traders. Anyone interested in modern Navajo life will enjoy this lively book.
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"Powers is admittedly sympathetic to the traders, seeing most of them as hardworking people who did in fact serve the Navajo. . . . Overall, this well-researched and personal account provokes reflection." "Powers offers a sound understanding of the ways trading on the Navajo reservation from the 1870s through the 1980s was a cross-cultural experience." "�Powers� does an admirable job of weaving oral history, newspaper accounts, letters, and legal records to present a well-rounded perspective of a topic that is usually overly romanticized." "Powers clearly possesses first-rate scholarly credentials. . . . Powers offers a well-constructed discussion of the structure of trading and of the influence of traders, collectors, and anthropologists on the production of crafts." "�Powers's� view that Navajo trading has radically changed since the 1960's is absolutely sound. She also understands the Navajos' perspective on trading and yet admires the older legitimate traders who tried to help their customers. Her book provides a great deal of information." "For anyone who has ever visited a trading post in the past, this book will bring back memories of a bygone era. For those who have never been on the Navajo Reservation or to a trading post, this book will give you an inside look as to the inner workings of the trader-Navajo relationship. Anyone interested in learning about the Navajo and trading will need to read this book." "[Powers] does an admirable job of weaving oral history, newspaper accounts, letters, and legal records to present a well-rounded perspective of a topic that is usually overly romanticized." "[Powers's] view that Navajo trading has radically changed since the 1960's is absolutely sound. She also understands the Navajos' perspective on trading and yet admires the older legitimate traders who tried to help their customers. Her book provides a great deal of information."

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