Ruby Hubbard, known also by her title “Queen of Ganado Red,” has been weaving Navajo rugs at the Hubbell Trading Post National Historical Site in Ganado for 14 years, and once she finishes her latest Two Gray Hills rug, she plans to retire from work.
Hubbard currently demonstrates her weaving and answers questions from visitors at the trading post, adding an inch or two to her rug each day. It takes at least 4 months for her to complete a rug.
“Ruby’s weaving demonstrations help bring the history of this place to life more than words and pictures in an exhibit hall ever could,” said Mindi Gusman, operations manager for Western National Parks Association, a nonprofit that manages Hubbell Trading Post. “Visitors get to interact with her as she’s working and learn about her culture and the history of the trading post.”
Hubbell Trading Post is the oldest continuously operating trading post on the Navajo Nation. John Lorenzo Hubbell bought the post in 1878, and it still operates today much like it did when it opened. Inside is a store full of foodstuffs for sale in addition to bolts of cloth and skeins of wool on the counters, and decorating the ceiling are frying pans, horse collars, and kerosene lamps. The trading post also features a jewelry room complete with carvings, paintings, kachinas, and clay work with some works available for purchase. Another room has hand-woven rugs draped over wooden railings and in piles with prices ranging from $50 to $10,000. The National Historic Site operates as part museum, part art gallery.
“Many visitors are surprised to find that Hubbell Trading Post operates much like it always has,” said Gusman. “We work hard to create an authentic experience and maintain the historical role the trading post has held for the local community and its visitors.”
Hubbard earned her title “Queen of Ganado Red” because of the specific motifs she employs in her weaving. Hubbard’s work features red backgrounds, black borders, and ornate designs that recreate designs of the past, a style popularized and encouraged by Hubbell himself. Her signature is a piece of yellow yarn, which represents corn pollen and starts each rug. According to Hubbard, the designs in the four corners of the rug represent the four sacred mountains of the Navajo people: Blanca Peak in Colorado, Mount Taylor in New Mexico, Arizona’s own San Francisco Peaks and Hesperus Mountain in Colorado.
Hubbard answers visitor questions without halting her work, but there are some that Hubbard refuses to answer. “They want to know what stories the rug tells and I don’t share that,” said Hubbard. “Most of the stories are sacred to the Navajo and I don’t give out that information. It’s part of what my mom taught me and I respect that.”
The tradition has been passed down through her family, carrying the legacy of the Navajo people with her works. “This is something that you learn from your family. My grandmother was a weaver, my mother was a weaver, and I learned it from them,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard says she has no intention to stop weaving but wants more time to help take care of her grandchildren.
“I feel like I’m not just representing myself but weavers across the whole Navajo Nation,” said Hubbard. “It’s important to see that this art and tradition continues.” Hubbard says she is proud of her time at the Hubbell Trading Post.
“The historical importance of Hubbell Trading Post and the educational opportunities it provides are unrivaled. It has also never stopped being a vital part of the local community,” said Gusman. “The West’s history, culture and tradition still live here.”