Rare, endangered historic site turns 100

Local News

Photo Courtesy Roger Roper/Utah State Historic Preservation Office

SAN JUAN, Utah (ABC4) – A rare historic site celebrates 100 years of life down in the center of San Juan County, Friday.

According to historians, June 11 marks the 100 year anniversary of the Oljato Trading Post in San Juan County.

“The Oljato Trading Post, which celebrates its 100th birthday this year, is a rare example of a once-ubiquitous mainstay in Navajo communities—trading posts that offered a wide assortment of goods, provided Navajo producers a place to sell or trade their products, and acted as community centers and social hubs,” recalls the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this trading post in southeastern Utah has also been identified as one of the 11 most endangered historic sites in the country.

Officials say the post was first built in 1921 by a licensed Anglo trader and is now entirely in Oljato and Navajo hands, “providing an opportunity to adapt the trading post in a way that brings more resources, attention, economic opportunity, and social benefits to the tribal communities.”

As community members celebrate the legacy of the Oljato Trading Post, officials share that the deteriorated facility actually needs $1.3 million for rehabilitation.

Citizens are invited to help fund the revival of the facility, so it can have a new life as a community center and cultural tourist destination.

“This can become the first stop for tourists as they travel to Monument Valley and Bears Ears, which will bring in revenue and help people understand the history of trading posts,” says Herman Daniels, who represents the Oljato area on the Navajo Nation Council. “There’s a lot of memories for people who went to the trading post. I can still remember getting bubble gum from the gumball machine whenever we visited.”

Historians say, not only did the Oljato Trading Post once provide Navajo producers a place to sell or trade their products but it also provided a trading room, living area, storage for wares, and a traditional hogan, or sacred home, for overnighters.

According to Robert S. McPherson, a professor of history emeritus at Utah State University, before the trading post can serve as an economic tool for the community and tourist destination, restoration work needs to happen.

“Oljato Trading Post was the center of the community, but then it lapsed into oblivion,” says McPherson, who is helping raise restoration funds through the Friends of Oljato. “But we’re bringing it back, and it’s going to be a boon for the whole region. It has huge potential for economic and cultural revitalization in an area with strong tourism.”

To take action and help fund the cause check out http://ow.ly/QFza50F1rm8.

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