Tales from Wide Ruins: Jean and Bill Cousins, Traders
Mary Tate Engels's account of the lives of the Cousins is a valuable addition to the literature of Western Americana and an astute insight into the rich and complex Navajo culture."—Tony HillermanOnly a few crumbling structures remain of the once thriving community of families who lived at the Wide Ruins Trading Post. Only the stories of Bill and Jean Cousins, their photos and letters, remain to validate the history of a corner of the Navajo Indian Reservation in the early twentieth century.And theirs is a unique history. The couple spent a lifetime in the Indian trading business at Cousins Brothers Post, Thunderbird Post, Borrego Post, Wide Ruins Post, then Cousins Indian Jewelry and Jean's All Indian Pawn Shop in Gallup. In the 1930s and 1940s they managed the Wide Ruins Post, known to the Navajos as Kin-Teel, or "wide house." They aided in the development of the Wide Ruins rug, encouraging the area Navajo weavers to use entirely vegetal dyes to re-create in their rugs the glorious natural colors of the desert.But more importantly, Jean and Bill Cousins were part of the beginning of a new era of relations between the Native Americans of this remote area and the Anglos. They helped to forge a basis for commerce—and for mutual respect. Working with both Zuñis and Navajos to market handmade items for modern trade, the Cousinses became both their advisers and their friends.
by: Mary Tate Engels