Trading Posts were once the center of commerce on reservations. They supplied canned goods, soda, hardware, tack, livestock supplies, soft goods, medicine, cloth, flour and other items not otherwise available on the far reaches of the reservations. In a rural economy with no other banking system and no monetary system, the Trading Post served as a place for Native Americans to obtain items using wool, baskets, livestock, rugs, sheep pelts, goatskins and corn to trade for needed items. As the Trading Post system advanced, the Indian Trader began providing silver and turquoise to Native silversmiths to make jewelry and imported wool for rug making.
Today, the towns bordering the reservations provide similar services with the addition of money being exchanged. Jewelry most commonly is “pawned” in exchange for money or goods. The Trader holds the “pawn” (collateral jewelry, saddles and guns) in his vault for a specified period of time. If the loan is not repaid and an article is left unclaimed it becomes “Dead Pawn” and is made available for sale. The Traders know the artisans personally and pawned pieces are usually held longer than the agreement calls for. If the Trader knows it is a significant family piece, he may hold it indefinitely to help keep the family from loosing it. Sometimes, individuals pawn jewelry with no intention of reclaiming it and it becomes available to the public for sale. Quality, old “Dead Pawn” has become much more scarce and is highly sought after by collectors.