Will Evans's writings should find a special niche in the small
but significant body of literature from and about traders to the
Navajos. Evans was the proprietor of the Shiprock Trading Company.
Probably more than most of his fellow traders, he had a strong
interest in Navajo culture. The effort he made to record and share
what he learned certainly was unusual. He published in the
Farmington and New Mexico newspapers and other periodicals,
compiling many of his pieces into a book manuscript. His subjects
were Navajos he knew and traded with, their stories of historic
events such as the Long Walk, and descriptions of their culture as
he, an outsider without academic training, understood it. Evans's
writings were colored by his fondness for, uncommon access to, and
friendships with Navajos, and by who he was: a trader, folk artist,
and Mormon. He accurately portrayed the operations of a trading
post and knew both the material and artistic value of Navajo
crafts. His art was mainly inspired by Navajo sandpainting. He
appropriated and, no doubt, sometimes misappropriated that sacred
art to paint surfaces and objects of all kinds. As a Mormon, he had
particular views of who the Navajos were and what they believed and
was representative of a large class of often-overlooked traders.
Much of the Navajo trade in the Four Corners region and farther
west was operated by Mormons. They had a significant historical
role as intermediaries, or brokers, between Native and European
American peoples in this part of the West. Well connected at the
center of that world, Evans was a good spokesperson.
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