Gallup New Mexico – Indian jewelry, trading posts and natural beauty

Richardsons Rug Room - Gallup, NM

Explore the trading posts of Gallup. This is the rug room in Richardson's Trading

Gallup? Why stop in Gallup? That is usually the reaction I get when I plan a trip to one of my favorite places… Gallup, New Mexico. There are many reasons to visit Gallup. Here are just a few.

Trading Posts
Gallup trading posts are real. The trading culture that has made Gallup a mecca for Native American jewelry enthusiasts, is alive and strong. When you are in Gallup you’ll find traditional trading posts that do business the old way. To enter a genuine trading post that trades with local Native populations is an experience in commerce that has its roots in Indian trade before the 1900’s. And, for some trading posts, the families have been trading with locals for generations.

Trading posts are usually bustling with business, both with Native Americans pawning or selling their goods to the traders (or making payments on their pawned goods) and with tourists and collectors buying genuine Native arts and crafts. Pawning is not a negative thing. Pawning is a way that Native Americans store their valuables, get a little cash and then take them out of pawn when they need them.

If you want to understand trading posts, and Native American jewelry and art, consider taking a small group to Richardson’s for their morning tours (appointment needed).

Whether you stay in Gallup or not, you must stop and explore a few of the old trading posts. Some of my favorites are Richardson’s, Bill Malone’s , Perry Null’s, Ellis Tanners and Joe Milo’s.

Visit Bill Malone's Trading in Gallup

Visit Bill Malone's Trading in Gallup for a special piece of Native American art. Bill is a long-time trader who can advise you on your purchase. You may find his wife weaving in the back of the shop.

Native American Jewelry
Gallup has long been known as The Native American Jewelry Capitol of the World. As a trade junction between Zuni and Navajo lands, Gallup has always been a place to go to sell, trade and buy. You’ll find authentic Native American jewelry at the trading posts, at some stores and even at Earl’s Restaurant. If you are a real bargain hunter, check out the Gallup Flea Market.

Of course you’ll have to ask a few questions about the origin of a piece you are considering to be sure it is hand-made and authentic. If you go to a reputable dealer, such as the trading posts I have mentioned, you’re sure to come away with a real treasure. There is more authentic Native American jewelry in Gallup than any other place I have travelled!

Zuni Olla Maidens Perform

You may see the Zuni Olla Maidens perform in Gallup, in Zuni or during the Fall Festival on Hwy 53.

Zuni Pueblo
Zuni Pueblo, just a scenic 30 minute drive from Gallup is a must-see. The pueblo is one of the most culturally intact Native American communities I have visited. The Zuni are well-known for their beautiful needlepoint jewelry and high quality inlay. Those hand-carved animals, often known as fetishes, are from Zuni. The artists draw from their culture and spirituality when they create the beautiful items they are known for.

The first stop when you drive into Zuni should be the Zuni Visitors Center. When you visit the center, you will see displays about the area, find out about tours and get a sense of what visitors can expect. I’d highly recommend any tour which takes you to the church with it’s amazing Zuni murals. If you have the time, be sure and take the tour to Hawikku Zuni Ancestral Village which is the site of first contact with the Spanish.

Another special place in Zuni is the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center. This museum is primarily for the people of Zuni, especially the children, but if you can find the museum, located in a historic adobe, you will not only learn from the exhibits, you will be enlightened. The museum is free, but please leave a donation. It is located on 02E Ojo Caliente Road, off the main street.

Outdoor Adventure
Whether you are a sightseer or a serious hiker, there are some great outdoor experiences in store for you around the Gallup area. There are amazing trails and parks for the hiker and mountain biker. Some recommended places to visit are off of Route 53, which runs from Grants, past Zuni and into Gallup. This route is named “The Trail of the Ancients” and is also an arts trail.

Cliffs at El Malpais

Cliffs at El Malpais

The road will take you by the El Malpais National Monument (interesting volcanic flow) and by El Morro National Monument. El Morro is an imposing sandstone cliff. Spanish and American travelers rested and carved their signatures, dates and messages for hundreds of years. El Morro National Monument protects over 2,000 inscriptions and petroglyphs, as well as Ancestral Puebloan ruins.

There are many places to explore in the Gallup area. The Gallup Visitors Center has a great trail map that will help you choose your outdoor activities.

Special Events
During the summer, Gallup offers free nightly Indian dances at the Gallup Courthouse Square from 7pm to 8pm.

Young Dancer at the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial

Young Dancer at the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial

Of course the big event that should draw you to Gallup is the Intertribal Ceremonial each August. You’ll experience tribal ceremonial dances, a contest pow-wow, indoor and outdoor arts and crafts markets, all Indian rodeo, a world class juried art show, opportunities to buy authentic Native American art and jewelry, parades, Native American foods, a ceremonial queen contest, and crafts demonstrations. More on Ceremonial.

If you can’t make it to Gallup in the summer, there is something special in store for you in Winter. Each December, the second largest balloon festival in the world launches colorful hot air balloons at Red Rock Park. The Red Rock Balloon Rally features mass ascensions, an evening balloon glow and Native American dances by firelight.

A Base for Exploring
Gallup is a wonderful, low-cost and convenient base for exploring such marvelous places as Toadlena Trading Post, Chaco Canyon, Canyon de Chelly and Acoma Sky City. Each of these adventures can be a full day trip.

Yes, Stop in Gallup
This should convince you to take a detour off I-40 and stop in Gallup the next time you travel in New Mexico. While Gallup may look like a railroad town (it is), there are treasures to behold in and around the Gallup area. While you are there, savor the Route 66 atmosphere at the historic El Rancho Hotel or stay at any of the modern motels such as Hampton Inn. I love Gallup. It’s a real getaway to the wild west for me.

More Information
Book Gallup Hotels Online and Save
Gallup Chamber of Commerce

Photo Credit: Elizabeth R. Rose

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