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Our Corner of the Southwest

A Brief History of Pawn

People from all over the world visit Gallup, New Mexico each year. Here they can turn back time and find solitude from urban sprawl in canyons, mesa tops, and mountains. The sky stretches a clean blue as far as the eye can see, and it is a place where you know your neighbor. The beauty of the landscape and Native American cultures draw people here, but they also come to see the Trading Posts.

perrytakingpawn
Perry taking a Ceremonial Basket in Pawn.

It seems like you could not have one without the other. The Trading Post serves as one large safety deposit box, a place where a priceless family heirloom can be kept safe for the Native American People. Without the loyalty and understanding of the trading business the Post would not survive without the Native American People, both depend on each other for existence. Traders in Gallup, New Mexico have traded many times with 3 to 4 generations of the same family. Every time we give a tour here at Perry Null Trading Company customers are amazed with the Pawn business.

vault
Andy finding a piece of pawn in the Pawn Vault.

Trade has been a way of life with the Navajo people. Before the Spanish arrived the Navajo would trade with other Native American groups for goods. After the United States Government formed the Navajo Reservation in 1868 with a Treaty it would give permission to Traders to set up establishments on the Reservation. This would begin a tradition between two cultures that continues today.

In the days before rugs and jewelry became a significant part of the Navajo trade, it was livestock that was used. Navajo family groups would have large numbers of sheep that they would sheer in the spring of each year. They would take this wool to the Trader, who in return would pay them for it. Many times the payment was not made in cash, but each Trader would have a token for their shop, which could be used to buy goods. This cycle would be repeated year after year.

The Navajos began making silver items sometime after the mid 1800s. Spanish metal workers had taught it to them. During the late 1800s you still only had a handful of Navajo silversmiths, and this trend continued into the early 1900s. Traders began to encourage silver making for tourist trade, and the number of silversmiths grew. However, during the 1920s and 1930s the majority of silversmiths still did it on a part-time basis when they were not busy with livestock and their fields.

pawncounter
The Pawn Counter at Perry Null Trading Company.

During the 1930s the United States Government began an overgrazing program that destroyed the Navajo wool trade. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) made it policy that an acre of land could only support six sheep. Early Trading Posts where few in number and in remote parts of the Reservation and in bordering towns. These Posts had established a way of life on the Reservation for the Navajo People and were seen by the Navajo as a necessity. When the wool trade died due to Government Policy and the number of Navajo silversmiths was increasing it became a natural transition for jewelry to take its place as the trade item. Also, money replaced Trader Coins and was used as the exchange for pawn. This is the beginning of today’s Gallup pawn system.

jewelryinpawn
Row of Concho Belts in the Vault.

The Trading Posts that had been established on the Reservation and bordering towns had established a trust with the Native American people. It became a place where family members and friends could count on running into each other, and it was much easier for the People to use than a traditional bank. It essentially became the place the Navajo would do their business with first. This would not change as time went on.

It was not long before travel became much easier and the Trading Posts began to close on the Reservation. Gallup, New Mexico more than any other bordering Navajo Reservation town became the major trading center for the People. Trading Posts had been established early on in Gallup, so it was a natural transition for the Navajo to trade in Gallup like they had on the Reservation. Today Gallup is home to families that began trading on the Reservation and moved into the town.

Along with easier travel other things began to change. The Trading Post was no longer the one stop store. New markets opened that carried food and dry goods, specialty stores that had chain saws, saddles, guns, and other needs for life on the Reservation. However, the Trading Posts (Pawn Shops) continued to be a major source of the monies used by the People in these new stores. The Native American People knew the fine jewelry, and could always count on getting cash in just a few minutes. Pawn had been a gradual growing part of the Trading Post business, but it was no more important than the goods they would sell out of the store. Tourist trade and sales to the Native American People (the Posts best customer) was still the most important part of a Trading Post.

During the 1970s the Native American art (especially jewelry) saw an all time interest, and it seemed that during this time every one was making jewelry. A big influx of money was circulating in Gallup and on the Reservation during the Boom of the 1970s. At this time you saw the Trading Post become more like they are today, which is specializing in Native American art for resale and Pawn centers for the surrounding Native American People. With this big influx of money people became use to having money in their pockets. After the boom slowed, pawn had established itself as the major Navajo banking system.

perrynullshowroom
Perry Null Trading Company Showroom.

If you are interested in visiting a Trading Post to see how the Pawn system works, please visit us here at Perry Null Trading Company. Saturday is always a busy day and the atmosphere is like a big reunion. Trading Posts have benches for the friends and relatives who run into each other on Saturdays. We look forward to seeing you.

Zuni Pueblo

I do not know as much as I would like about the Zuni culture, but I do know many Zuni people. The one thing that always comes to mind when I think of the people of Zuni is their friendly, peaceful, and very welcoming personality. It has always been a gorgeous place to take company and enjoy the wonderful Zuni tamales, and Zuni has such a rich history that it becomes very easy to want to know as much as possible about this historic pueblo. Of course I could not take pictures of all the beautiful things to be photographed in Zuni, but hope you enjoy the pictures while taking a break from reading the story.

Welcome to Zuni

 

On a trip into this small New Mexico Pueblo Village sitting majestically in a valley surrounded by stunning red rock mesas one will never forget its beauty. This story was told to me by a Zuni about the great valley flood. When the early Spanish Conquistadors came to this new land they were on a search for gold. To the east of the Zuni Village is the El Morro National Park, which served as a water source for many of these early explorers and bears their names on the rock wall by this water source. It did not take them long to find the small Zuni Village to the east, and they left a lasting impression on this village. The actual number of Zuni residents that lost their lives at the hands of these explorers is not known, but it is said one conflict left more than half the Pueblo population dead. These early Pueblo Ruins can be visited with permission and a guide, which is located just outside the present day village.

Sacred Zuni Mountains

 

The flood story is one that has been passed down from generation to generation and is very much part of the Zuni history today. You can find the story told through different art mediums, such as pottery, jewelry, and fetishes. It is said that the Zuni people took to the sacred mountain that overlooked the town when they knew that the Spanish would be returning. On the arrival of the Spanish the great valley flooded with water drowning all of the explorers and missionaries, and today you can see on the great rock walls the levels that the water reached. The Spanish did not return to the village for several hundred years after the flooding.

Old Zuni Mission

 

You will notice I took pictures of the sacred mountain that the people of Zuni took refuge on during this great flood. The other pictures are of different things I find to be fascinating about the Zuni Pueblo. They include the famous bread ovens. If you ever do get a chance to visit, make sure you buy some famous Zuni bread. You will not be disappointed. Pictures of the old Zuni Mission presently closed to the public, but shows the Catholic presence of the early Spanish Explorers. Did my best to take a picture of the new High School, a beautiful building that will do its best to encourage education and teach of the beautiful Zuni culture. Large rocks that are hand sculpted to make many of the buildings in Zuni. A baseball field that sees it share of action, and like on the Navajo Reservation is a place where many in the community meet and tell stories, and cheer for their love of sports. No Reservation would be complete without the welcoming signs that let you know you have just entered a sovereign nation.

Goodbye, Leaving Zuni

 

 

Esther Vanderwagen

Intro:
New Mexico has a rich history associated with the Wild West, Santa Fe Trail, Billy the Kid, and Native Americans. The state has the misfortune of being the home of the Long Walk and the fortune of having the largest Native American population in the United States. Some families have very close ties with the history of these people and one of those families is the Vanderwagens.)
Perry Null Trading:
Lets first start with how Vanderwagen, NM got its name?
Esther Vanderwagen:
In the early 1940s a family by the name Keeleys owned the White Water Trading Post and they wanted to create the town White Water. However, the name White Water already belonged to a town in southern New Mexico. The Keeley’s daughter was married to Richard Vanderwagen, and since the Vanderwagen was well known in the area they used his last name for the town (it serves as a Post Office where people in the area receive their mail).
Esther playing grandma with our daughter
Perry Null Trading:
When did your family come to this area?
Esther Vanderwagen:
My mother and father, Grace and Albert Garnaat, were missionaries for the Christian Reform Church and came to Orabi (Hopi Reservation) in 1941. Soon after they arrived in Arizona they went to do mission work closer to the Gallup area. When we came from Michigan I was in the fourth grade.
Perry Null Trading:
Were their a lot of missionary families here?
Esther Vanderwagen:
That is how my family came to know the Vanderwagen family. Effa and Andrew Vanderwagen were also from the Christian Reform Church and in 1896 went to Zuni, NM from Michigan to do missionary work. My family met them in 1943 when my parents moved to this area.
Perry Null Trading:
The Vanderwagen family is known for being a Zuni Indian Trader family, how did they get involved in the trading business if they were missionaries?
Esther Vanderwagen:
It didn’t take them long to figure out that they would not be able to survive on a missionary wage, so they opened a trading company in Zuni. In 1900 they opened Vanderwagen Trading in Zuni. At that time it served many purposes and they offered many dry goods and groceries.
Perry Null Trading:
Your husband is one of their son’s, Ernie Vanderwagen, did you meet him in at the same time your family met the Vanderwagens?
Esther Vanderwagen:
No, I did not meet him until 1947. He had served in World War II and his duty with the Navy kept him in service from 1942 until 1946. Ernie did his service in the Pacific. It was not until 1949 before we would get married.
Esther Vanderwagen
Perry Null Trading:
Was Ernie involved in the family business?
Esther Vanderwagen:
Ernie was around the family business from a very early age. He was fluent in the Zuni language which made it very easy for him to build relationships with the local Zuni craftsman. When he was twelve one clan proposed initiation into the clan which would allow him to dance in the ceremonies. However, his mother would not hear of such a thing.
Perry Null Trading:
After you had married was the trading business going to be your new families trade?
Esther Vanderwagen:
We had left the area briefly after we married, but came back in 1951 to run a trading post in Tse Bonta. After that we owned or were co-owners in several different shops. The Vanderwagen store (White Water Trading Post), a store in Zuni, and Gallup Pawn. We did a little pawn business and jewelry business, mostly wholesale.
Perry Null Trading:
How involved were you in the stores?
Esther Vanderwagen:
I was raising kids and had other responsibilities that kept me busy. When we were in Vanderwagen I was the Post Master, in Zuni I worked for the schools, so I was not around the trading post as much as I would of liked to have been.
Perry Null Trading:
You mentioned that Ernie was proposed the offer to be initiated into a Zuni clan and spoke fluent Zuni, did this give you access to many Zuni crafts people?
Esther Vanderwagen:
Old man Leekya (Leekya Dyuse) was the Zuni who wanted Ernie to join the clan. So he had a good relationship with him. When we were down in Zuni, Ernie would go over to Leekya’s home and choose what fetishes he wanted. Leekya would set them aside and then when we got a collection we would string them ourselves.
Perry Null Trading:
What other early Zuni artist did you trade with?
Esther Vanderwagen:
Leekya’s daughter Elizabeth was married to Frank Vacit and they lived with him when they were first married. Leekya would carve these frogs that had a lip on them so they could be set in silver, after he was finished with them he would give them to Frank who had done the silver work to set them in the bracelet. These were some great pieces.
Perry Null Trading:
It is different actually knowing the artist when you had grown up with them instead of being an outsider. How were the relationships different?
Esther Vanderwagen:
When Ernie had enlisted to go to World War II, Zuni artist Dan Simplicio had enlisted at the same time. This was before he was the famous artist that he would eventually become. They had a very close relationship that was more than the usual trader/artist friendship. Many of Dan’s pieces prior to the War were done in traditional inlay style. It was not until after the war and he had the life changing experience associated with such an event that he began his style that was very different than what is associated with Zuni artist.
Perry Null Trading:
So you and Ernie were considered part of an extended family in Zuni?
Esther Vanderwagen:
We had many close relationships, today I still visit with Elizabeth on a regular basis. The Zuni Tribe wanted to make a Constitution, so they had all of these lawyers meeting with the Council. Many on the counsel didn’t speak english, and those that did have a general understanding didn’t understand lawyers terminology. So for one whole winter Ernie would go to these meetings to translate the lawyers terminology into the Zuni language and in a way it made sense.
Perry Null Trading:
Looking back what are your thoughts?
Esther Vanderwagen:
It is always easy to look back and see what you should have done that was different. I wish I had paid more attention to the culture and the different artist. Still we had a great time in the business and I would not trade it for another life.
Perry Null Trading:
What are you doing today?
Esther Vanderwagen:
I am still working and plan to work for a couple of more years. I have moved around a bit the last couple of years, a stop in Mesa Verde at a gallery. Now I am at Richardson’s in downtown Gallup, that allows me to see many of my friends and keeps me involved in the business, which I love.

Jimmy Turpen

Intro:
Many of us set out on our life’s journey trying to mold it. We want to end up where we think we should go, and do the things that we believe will get us there. Some of us however take a much different path, letting life happen. Jimmy Turpen let life happen and in return he has lived a full life. I could have spent hours listening to him give me his history, but I could tell his story could not be told in hours.
Jimmy Turpen
Perry Null Trading:
Where should we begin?
Jimmy Turpen:
It is your interview (laugh).
Perry Null Trading:
The Turpen name is a well recognized Indian Trader name and has a long history associated with this area. How did your family come to this area?
Jimmy Turpen:
In 1916 a relative died at the Shonto Trading Post (very remote part of the Navajo reservation, northeast of Tuba City) so my Aunt Trula Richardson got in contact with my father to come out here. Trula was responsible for bringing out many of the early traders in my family.
Perry Null Trading:
What type of trading was the Shonto Trading Post actively involved in?
Jimmy Turpen:
In those days they were taking a little pawn, the jewelry was pieces the Navajos had made for themselves. At this location and time no jewelry was being made by the traders for tourist trade. They dealt mostly with dry goods and groceries. The payment was made with anything of value, such as pinons, wool, and livestock.
Perry Null Trading:
Did he stay at this location for a long time?
Jimmy Turpen:
My father was sent to the different trading post owned by his family members, was sent to where the work was needed. At that time they had trading post at Cameron, Tuba City, Blue Canyon, Shonto, and some other remote places on the Reservation.
Perry Null Trading:
Did he like the trading business?
Jimmy Turpen:
He was a business man, always looking for opportunities. At one time he learned how do tailor work and opened a dry cleaning and tailor business in Winslow. Went to Gallup for a short period, than back to trading at the Grand Canyon.
Perry Null Trading:
You were around for the Grand Canyon Trading Post. What do you remember?
Jimmy Turpen:
I remember the first day we arrived, it was June 16th, 1936, and snow was on the ground and my mother cried all day. It was on private land and consisted of a curio shop, bar, and restaurant. It had a dance hall and a band played there every evening. You had lots of tourist traffic because it was on the road to the park.
Perry Null Trading:
What was your dad doing at this time with regards to jewelry?
Jimmy Turpen:
He had set up a shop behind the store where he would cut stones. My mom ran the store during the day and then my father would run the restaurant and bar at night. This would allow him time to cut stones in his shop during the day. Stones were a good revenue source so he was always in there cutting.
Perry Null Trading:
How old were you when your family opened the store in the Grand Canyon?
Jimmy Turpen:
I was six years old, and we stayed there until I was twelve. It was a great time and I have wonderful memories about the place. Still can smell the candy in the cases, and sneaking a few pieces. I had been around the Sunrise Springs Trading Post before we moved to the Grand Canyon, so was already familiar with this type of life style, always something going on and to do.
Perry Null Trading:
Did you help your dad with the stones?
Jimmy Turpen:
Yes, my dad would let me sand and polish the stones. He had a silversmith family living there that would make the stones into jewelry, and then he would also take loose stones on the road to sell. We worked with a lot of Number 8, Blue Gem, Morenci, and Kingman turquoise.
Perry Null Trading:
How were you able to get a store in the Grand Canyon?
Jimmy Turpen:
It was on private land. Dan Hogan an Irishmen from New York had rights to the land before it became a National Park. He had served with the Rough Riders during the Spanish American War and had become friends with Teddy Roosevelt. When Teddy Roosevelt became President he was visiting the area and ran into Dan. Dan had been prospecting for ore at the time and the President asked if he could do anything for him. It just so happened that he could, Dan surveyed the land and asked for the rights to mine it. What he got was the right to own the land, granted by the President. Eventually the land was given back to the park under a deal that once the uranium had been mined it would be turned over. This was the land the store was on and today the Powell Memorial is there.
Perry Null Trading:
Why did your family leave the Grand Canyon store?
Jimmy Turpen:
In 1942 the tourist stopped coming. World War II broke out and with it came rations on gasoline. So we moved to Tucson.
Perry Null Trading:
What did your family do there?
Jimmy Turpen:
They opened another curio shop. It didn’t take long for my dad to figure out he didn’t like waiting on customers, so he was back to cutting stones. He had two guys helping him (along with me) one Navajo named John Nelson who did silver work and John Garcia who helped with the stones. He started to make some really good jewelry.
Perry Null Trading:
You finished high school in Tucson, then did you go to work for your father fulltime?
Jimmy Turpen:
After high school I went to college at the University of Arizona. I started out studying to become a dentist, but changed it to Wildlife Management. This was a new program at the school and only six of us were in the first class.
Perry Null Trading:
Did you go to work in this field after graduation?
Jimmy Turpen:
I had gotten married when I was in college and didn’t quite finish. I was in the ROTC and enlisted in the Army when I was a junior in college.
Mrs. Turpen
Perry Null Trading:
What did you do in the Army?
Jimmy Turpen:
I went to flight school and became a pilot. After flight school I was sent to Germany when we still occupied the country. We would take pictures from the air of the Russian Army advances in East Germany, after we developed the film we then flew it to our front lines to let them know about any movement of the enemy.
Perry Null Trading:
How long were you in Germany?
Jimmy Turpen:
We went, my wife and two children, in 1954 and came back home in 1957.
Perry Null Trading:
Did you come back to Tucson?
Jimmy Turpen:
Yes, I came back and finished my Wildlife Management program. By this time it was a popular field and the only job I could get was a study of the Razor Back in Tennessee. So I was on a job hunt immediately.
Perry Null Trading:
What kind of work did you find?
Jimmy Turpen:
My sister helped me get a job with Martin Marietta building the Titan Missile in Denver. So we moved there and began working, this was during the height of the Cold War. When we had finished building the missiles and the work slowed I got on with IBM in the same area of Colorado.
Perry Null Trading:
How about the Indian Trading business?
Jimmy Turpen:
I had a good job and really liked working for IBM. Still had an interest in it, but was working to pay bills and raise a family. During this time in Colorado we had made a trip to Estes Park. A lady owned a shop there that sold Indian jewelry and we saw a belt that my father had made in her window. We had made an offer to buy the belt and the lady told us it would be $3500. At that time this was an expensive price, but we wanted to have it and agreed. After that she said the piece was not for sale.
Perry Null Trading:
Sounds like good business practice?
Jimmy Turpen:
We introduced ourselves to her. She told me that she had a piece of my father’s work at her home and would mail it to me. When it arrived I had the option to buy it from her. The box didn’t arrive until six months later, and by then I had forgotten about it. The packaged contained a silver ware set that my father made during the 1940s. She said I could have it for the price she paid him, that was $500. So I sent her a check.
Jimmy Turpen Sr. Silverware Set
Perry Null Trading:
When did you get back into the Indian Trading business?
Jimmy Turpen:
In 1973 I received a call from Tobe Turpen asking to check out a retail location in Denver. They were thinking of opening a store here. The location was terrible and they never opened a store there. However, I was offered a job to be the general manager of the Tobe Turpen store in Gallup.
Perry Null Trading:
Was it an easy decision to make?
Jimmy Turpen:
I knew the business and I liked the business. I had a good job with IBM and my wife was able to be around our children in the Denver area. It was a much harder decision for her because she would be leaving her children and grand children.
Turpen Grand Daughter, All Grown Up
Perry Null Trading:
Well we know you decided to return to the business, was it an easy transition?
Jimmy Turpen:
It was for me, I was right back into the swing of things. My wife cried for the first two years, until our daughter and her family moved to Gallup. At the time we moved to Gallup the American Indian Movement was very active. Right before we moved down with our belongings AIM had taken the Gallup Mayor hostage and one of the kidnappers was killed in the ordeal. My wife was asking me what kind of place we were moving to.
Perry Null Trading:
You showed up right in time for the big 1970s market, was business booming?
Jimmy Turpen:
The 1970s was a big boom market for Indian jewelry. All of the big movie stars were wearing turquoise and that made everybody want it. You had everybody selling jewelry, train operators would take it on the road with them and sell it, school teachers were selling it, everybody in the town was selling jewelry.
Perry Null Trading:
How busy was the store?
Jimmy Turpen:
We were booming, at the time we had three locations. Most of our business was wholesale, it was not uncommon for us to sell 100 squash blossoms a day. We had 30 silversmiths working in the shop cranking out jewelry. It was a good time for the industry, but at the same time you had a lot of junk available because it was being made so fast and everybody was making it.
Perry Null Trading:
When did it slow down?
Jimmy Turpen:
The wholesale slowed down in the early 1980s, but at this time the pawn business was starting to grow really good. With the shortage of money from the slowdown in the market, people started to pawn for extra money. It was always busy at the store.
Perry Null Trading:
During the 1970s C.G. Wallace had his big auction in Phoenix, did you pay much attention to it?
Jimmy Turpen:
We would use the auction to get an idea for what things were selling for. One day Tobe Turpen came to me with the C.G. Wallace catalog and asked me about a silverware set in it. It was like the one I had bought from the lady in Estes Park. My father had made two alike sets, I had the other one. The set at auction sold for $35,000.
1952 Gallup Ceremonial Blue Ribbon
Perry Null Trading:
You are also an artist, how did you get involved with making bronze statues?
Jimmy Turpen:
In 1969 we visited a gallery in Taos and looked at some pieces. I thought this looked easy and decided to make some pieces. It was not as easy as it looked but I had a new hobby?
Navajo Song & Dance Bronze
Perry Null Trading:
Your hobby worked out pretty good for you, I have seen some of your work. Did you sell your pieces?
Jimmy Turpen:
I have had them in different galleries. My pieces are also displayed in a book put out by Bill Harmsen.
Perry Null Trading:
When did you leave the Tobe Turpen store?
Jimmy Turpen:
I retired in 1995. Tobe Turpen Jr. was grooming his son to run the business. Today I help out at Richardson’s Trading downtown at the beginning of each month. Bill Richardson is my cousin and I enjoy spending time down there. Get to see some of the people I dealt with at the Turpen store.
Perry Null Trading:
What do you miss the most?
Jimmy Turpen:
I miss the action and getting to see my old friends.

Roland Kamps

Intro:
Gallup has a fascinating history with the Navajo, Zuni, & Hopi peoples. It is a trading center for all three of these Native American Reservations. Many families were early settlers in this area and still here today. The Kamps family is one of these with a rich local history. This family has done mission work, healed the sick and delivered many new Gallopians, and taught generations of children. Roland Kamps was my teacher for 8th Grade History. He came into the Trading Post to show Perry some rugs his father had owned, and he wanted to sell.)
Perry Null Trading:
What brought the Kamps family to Gallup?
Roland Kamps:
My father, Jacob R., came here in 1927. He was a Minister for the Christian Reform Church and they had a Mission at Rehoboth, right outside of Gallup.
Roland Kamps wearing a Navajo turquoise bolo
Perry Null Trading:
Did your father want to come to this area?
Roland Kamps:
He came from a time when being a Minister of God was a very prestigious calling. He was one of those Godly men who teached God’s word and let that take him where he needed to be. (Laughs) I was conceived in China, born in Michigan, and raised in New Mexico. So you can see he was willing to go where needed.
Perry Null Trading:
Did your father have to learn to speak Navajo to do his Mission work?
Roland Kamps:
When he first arrived he took learning Navajo very seriously. He would become fluent in the Navajo language, but would never use it in a sermon. Before he learned he had a interpreter, Wallace Peshlakai, that would travel with him on the Navajo Reservation.
Perry Null Trading:
Did he teach you to speak Navajo, or did you learn another way to speak the language?
Roland Kamps:
Dad always wanted all of us kids to speak Navajo (laughs), but all I ever learned was the dirty words.
Perry Null Trading:
Did your Father ever do any trading with the Navajo?
Roland Kamps:
No,but he would always come home with rugs, baskets, and pottery he purchased to help a family out. This would make my mom so made because she said she needed the money to feed us kids. After my parents passed away we went through their things and came across a big steamer truck. That truck was filled to the top with Navajo rugs, probably somewhere around 25 to 50.
Rug from Father’s Truck
Perry Null Trading:
How many brothers and sisters do you have?
Roland Kamps:
All brothers, there are seven of us. I had my two youngest brothers in class at Rehoboth.
Perry Null Trading:
How long did you teach at Rehoboth?
Roland Kamps:
I started teaching at Rehoboth in 1949. You had to teach everything back then, so I remember having english, math, and history classes. Eventually, I became the Superintendent before leaving in 1966 for Zuni.
Perry Null Trading:
Do you remember any of the early Indian Traders?
Roland Kamps:
I had a men’s basketball team and played with Tobe Turpen Jr. and we would play against the Ortega Brothers. Also, Rico Menapace played on my team. He had the car dealership in town and that guy was what I think of as a Trader. He could speak Navajo fluently and would take whatever was offered for trade, sheep, cattle, rugs, anything of value. We called his truck the Navajo Cadillac because everyone on the Reservation was driving one.
Perry Null Trading:
So, I grew up familiar with the Kamps name, is their a younger generation still here in Gallup?
Roland Kamps:
Yes, Gallup will have Kamps people, hopefully forever.
Perry Null Trading:
So what do you think your Father paid for that large rug you brought in today?
Roland Kamps:
(Laughs) I know nothing close to the thousands it is worth today, maybe a couple of hundred at most.
Rug from Father’s Truck

Tobe Turpen Jr

Intro:
Perry Null purchased his Trading Post from Tobe Turpen Jr. It had been started on the north side of Gallup in the 1920s by his father Tobe Turpen Sr. A family with a rich history of trading, which makes for some great stories and a better understanding of how the business has evolved. Many Navajo and Zuni customers come into the store today and talk about how well they were treated by Tobe Jr., who is held in high regard by all who have met him)
Perry Null Trading:
How did your father get involved in the Trading business?
Tobe Turpen Jr. with Perry Null
Tobe Turpen Jr:
My Aunt was married to C.D. Richardson who brought my father to Winslow around 1918.
Perry Null Trading:
Which Trading Post did he work at?
Tobe Turpen Jr:
He spent a short period of time at some Posts around Winslow, but most of his time was in Shonto. It took one week by wagon to get from Flagstaff to Shonto, when my father was dropped off he was told they would see him in a couple of weeks. He didn’t see anyone for another six months, except the customers at Shonto.
Perry Null Trading:
How long did he stay at Shonto?
Tobe Turpen Jr:
He was there five to six years. It was hard life, we used kerosene lamps, carried our water, used a woodstove, nothing was easy. My mother who was from Oklahoma had a lonely life there.
Perry Null Trading:
So you lived at Shonto?
Tobe Turpen Jr:
Yes, I was born in 1923 and spent my first four years in Shonto.
Perry Null Trading:
What did your father do after Shonto?
Tobe Turpen Jr:
He moved around some spending time at other Posts, but settled in Gallup in the 1920s. He worked for a Trader by the name of McAdams on Gallup’s North side. A couple of years later he opened his own store down from McAdams.
Perry Null Trading:
Did you like the trading business at a young age?
Tobe Turpen Jr:
We lived right next door to the store, so I was there all the time. Every summer I had to work there and learned the business, but still was not very interested in it.
Perry Null Trading:
What changed, that made you become an Indian Trader?
Tobe Turpen Jr:
I was in the Navy from 1943 to 1946 and was an airplane gunner for 1 1/2 years. During that time I was in the Battle of Philippine Sea. After I got out of the service I came back to Gallup and went to work for my father. In 1956 I bought him out, and in 1972 I moved the store to where Perry is now.
Perry Null Trading:
So you came out of the service knowing you wanted to be in this business?
Tobe Turpen Jr:
No, I didn’t have anything else going on and my father had to tend to some ranching business in Oklahoma. He told me to watch the store for 3 - 4 weeks so nothing would get stolen. After 6 months he finally returned and I had a crash course in the business during those six months that I enjoyedm, so I continued doing it.
Perry Null Trading:
Your father was involved in ranching, did you also continue to do this after he was gone?
Tobe Turpen Jr:
I inherited 300 head of cattle from my father. I lost money on every head, and that was the end of my ranching career.
Perry Null Trading:
Was pawn an important part of the business then?
Tobe Turpen Jr:
My father was taking a little pawn, and we thought that it would be a good part of the business. However, it was very difficult to get rid of the dead pawn. In those days you had to educate the tourist of what they were buying, they were leary of the merchandise. What the Navajo wore was different than what was made for the retail trade.
Perry Null Trading:
They made many western movies here in the 1940s and 1950s, did you sell much to the actors?
Tobe Turpen Jr:
My father would supply the livestock so he had made relationships with many of the actors and crew. We would stay open late, after they stopped filming, and show the merchandise then. It was very good for us, and I met Jimmy Stewart, Burt Lancaster, Ronald Regan, Marilyn Monroe, Randolph Scott, Tyrone Power, and Earl Flynn.
Perry Null Trading:
Any good stories about the movie stars?
Tobe Turpen Jr:
Burt Lancaster came in one evening and wanted to buy rugs for friends and family. I started helping him and he had me make two piles. One pile he kept putting every good rug I had in, I kept thinking I was not going to have one good rug in the shop after he was done. He kept going and going, and it started to make me sick to think about all those good rugs leaving the store. When he finished he told me he would take that pile, and pointed to the one without the good weavings.
Perry Null Trading:
Did you do a big business in rugs?
Tobe Turpen Jr:
Jewelry was always the best. However, we would buy all the rugs that came in the store. I thought that at one point that the we were not going to get anymore rugs. During this rug drought I would travel to the Post on the Reservations to buy rugs, it was the only place I could get them. I thought for sure that was the end of Navajo rug weaving, but the traders started paying more and it fixed itself.
Perry Null Trading:
Did you make most of your jewelry in house?
Tobe Turpen Jr:
Almost all of it, we would buy some from the Zuni artists. We purchased stones from the Nevada turquoise miners, and my father at one time even had a claim to a mine in Colorado.
Perry Null Trading:
What was your favorite stone?
Tobe Turpen Jr:
We always bought what was available, I liked Lone Mountain, Morenci, and Bisbee.
Perry Null Trading:
People always talk about the big boom of the 1970s. What was it like?
Tobe Turpen Jr:
You always hear that the Hollywood crowd was responsible. I think the Hippies had more to do with it. Turquoise became very popular and I would have 5 - 10 Volkswagen vans in my parking lot every morning. They would come in and get the jewelry, after that they hit the road and would be back in two weeks.
Perry Null Trading:
Do you miss the Trading business?
Tobe Turpen Jr:
I do, I stayed active in it until the mid 1990s.