When Santa Fe transplant Cathy Smith rented her house in Nambe, she never dreamed she’d be running a trading post there four years later. On Memorial Day Weekend 2014, she reopened the Nambe Trading Post, adjacent to the Nambe Pueblo. It was a natural for this Hollywood costume designer, who specializes in Westerns such as Dances with Wolves.
Located just off the scenic High Road to Taos Byway in tiny Nambe, the reopened, updated trading post is a great short detour off New Mexico Highway 503. Make a right turn on Summer Road; it’s the third driveway on your left. There are clear signs to follow.
Western tools and artifacts inside Nambe Trading Post — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
The shop, located in a historic log building built in the 1930s, is packed with carefully handpicked merchandise. Discover pottery from local Pueblo artisans, Navajo rugs, Hopi and Zuni katsinas (carved representations of spirits), traditional Plains Indian bead and quill work, as well as new and pawn Native American jewelry.
Smith also stocks traditional trading post items such as Pendleton blankets, buckskin, beads and craft supplies. For an interesting twist, the traditional Pendleton prints now come on plush towels.
Nambe Trading Post also sells original silver jewelry crafted by Jennifer Jesse Smith (Cathy’s daughter). Cathy Smith’s Plains Indian and ledger art paintings and drawings are on view, as well.
Nambe Trading Post in Santa Fe — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
Selected pieces from Smith’s vast collection of costumes she’s designed over the last 25 years (both for films and TV) are also on view. She’s currently working on the popular series Longmire, filmed in the Santa Fe area. The ever-changing display currently features items worn in Dances with Wolves, Geronimo, Son of the Morning Star, Buffalo Girls and Comanche Moon.
The best news: if you fall in love with one of these and want to take it home, you can! Everything in the trading post is for sale. Smith will also be offering workshops and classes in such things as beadwork, moccasin making and bow making.
Lakota beaded dress yoke and Yanktonai cradle from the 1880s — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
The Nambe Trading Post, the last remaining original one in the area, was founded by Delphino and Ruth Romero sometime in the 1930s. Their grandson Mel Rivera ran the business until last January. Last year, he told Smith he was too busy to run the shop and planned to close it. She offered to take over, reconcept the inventory and “bring it back to life." She’s succeeded.
“I have always wanted to own a trading post,” Smith shares. “I tried to build one in South Dakota, where I was born and raised.”
It never happened, but she’s achieved her long-time goal in Santa Fe.
Smith has collected a vast array of costumes in her years as a designer — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
Cathy Smith grew up on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Her film career started in 1989, a year after she arrived in Santa Fe. She was asked to create authentic native costumes for Dances with Wolves and to be a technical on the film.
The Emmy Award winner has designed costumes for over 35 films and TV shows. She can tan hides and make traditional Plains Indian beadwork and porcupine quill work (a skill she learned from elders on the reservation). She’s an inductee to the National Cowgirl Museum Hall of Fame.
The Nambe Trading Post is open Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Smith will open the shop by appointment on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.