United Indian Traders Association (U.S.)

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The United Indian Traders Association, a group of southwestern traders and merchants, incorporated in New Mexico December 30th 1931. The main purpose of the Association was to protect and promote the sale of genuine Indian hand-made arts and crafts. The organization was primarily comprised of traders who traded on the Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations, the New Mexico Pueblos and of merchants who ran trading posts in reservation border towns. The group was headquartered in Gallup, New Mexico.

The first president of the organization was B.I. Staples of Coolidge, New Mexico. Other officers were Vice-President, R.C. Master, Zuni, New Mexico; Secretary, Tobe Turpen, Gallup, New Mexico; and treasurer, C.N. Cotton, Gallup, New Mexico. The first Board of Directors were L.L. Sabin, Fort Defiance, New Mexico; C.G. Wallace, Zuni, New Mexico; J.M. Drolet, Tohatchi, New Mexico; Ramon Hubbell, Ganado, New Mexico; Lloyd Ambrose, Thoreau, New Mexico; Bruce M. Bernard, Shiprock, New Mexico; and Mike Kirk, Manuelito, New Mexico.

This collection documents the organizations efforts from the late 1950s through the 1980s. This was a transforming period for native Americans and for Indian Traders. After World War II the traders began to see more cash flow into the trading posts. On the Navajo reservation the traders became more involved with arranging off reservation work, and unemployment, veteran, and Social Security benefits. This transformation toward a cash economy brought about a new set of issues for the UITA be concerned about.

In the 1950s the predominant issue was over leases for the trading posts that were on reservation land. Much of the UITA's work here involved working with the Navajo tribe. The organization was able to arrange for 25 year leases for Indian Traders on the reservation. However, the leasing issue would be a recurring one for the traders.

During the late 1960s the most controversial issue to arise was over pawn. This issue culminated in the Federal Trade Commission hearings that took place in the early 1970s. After the hearings the government began to require traders to have a more complex system for regulating pawn. Most traders on the reservation discontinued this service because of the new regulations. Also, during this time period the UITA became involved with helping to defend traders who were arrested for breaking these pawn regulations. Other important issues of the day concerned use of migratory bird feathers and the collection of sales and other taxes.

The UITA in addition to be a trade organization also formed a social group for the traders. Once a year the organization would meet either in Farmington, Gallup or Flagstaff. The group would have business meetings, but also would usually hire a band and have a banquet and an evening of dancing.

In 1998 the organization undertook a project to document the history of the UITA. This project generated photographs and oral histories about the Indian Trade.

From the guide to the United Indian Traders Association Records, 1931-2002., (Cline Library. Special Collections and Archives Department.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn United Indian Traders Association records, 1931-1996. Northern Arizona University, Cline Library
creatorOf United Indian Traders Association Records, 1931-2002. Cline Library. Special Collections and Archives Department.
referencedIn Powers, Willow Roberts, 1943-. Willow Powers collection, [1998-2001]. Northern Arizona University, Cline Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Powers, Willow Roberts, 1943- person
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