Who in the World is Paddy Martinez?
Uranium Discovery, Community Memory, and Identity in Western New Mexico
In mining lore, the stories about how the mother lode was found share so many common traits that they are like a closetful of well-washed flannel shirts. Whichever one you pick, you are going to get something comfortably familiar. It does not matter which mother lode is under discussion, for almost all tales of mineral discovery have certain key elements. The prospector is down on his luck, if he has been looking for ore, or perhaps he is not looking for ore at all. In any case, there is a serendipitous moment - a lost mule to chase down, a glint of metal while washing one's face in a stream, a rock pocketed for good luck - and riches, fame, and glory follow. The stories, of course, are merely stories. They frequently bear little relation to actual events as they happened. But, they still have value. It is my contention that we can learn about the past from such stories. In their own way, they are something of an unmined lode waiting for their prospectors. In order to show how these stories can be useful to historians, I am going to analyze the 1950 discovery of uranium near Grants, New Mexico by Paddy Martinez. Although Grants, a small town about 60 miles west of Albuquerque on Route 66 (and later Interstate 40), is something of a footnote in the history of the post-War United States, I am not arguing for the significance of the events that happened there (although they are significant in their own right). Rather, I am arguing that the uranium boom in Grants offers us the opportunity to examine how stories offer us access to historical insights about the communities that tell them.
Before I can begin that project, I need to provide readers with some background on the Grants area. As the railroad crept across New Mexico after the Civil War, the dominant society it represented encountered a variety of peoples. Roughly following today's Interstate 40, the railroad left Albuquerque, passing Acoma and Laguna pueblos. By about 1880, it had reached the foot of Mount Taylor. There, crews found the Bibo trading company building of Don Simon Bibo. Bibo, a Jewish trader of German descent, had married Hispana Ramona Candeleria of the small village of San Mateo on the other side of Mt. Taylor. The Bibo family apparently had a talent for blending in. Simon's brother, a trader at Acoma Pueblo, married an Acoma woman and even served a term as that Pueblo's Governor.[i] The town of San Mateo itself was adjacent to the San Mateo Springs Land Grant. In 1880, the Grant was still in the Hispano hands of Amado Chaves, but by 1916 it was held in shares by Chaves and two Anglos and later solely by one Anglo.[ii] The railroad's role in the regional transformation around Grants was more subtle than one might think. Chaves's land grant produced the same goods before and after the railroad came. The railroad carried essentially the same goods that Chaves and his workers wanted and the Bibos sold and it took the commodities that the ranch produced and the Bibos acquired.
When the railroad reached the Bibo trading post, the town-to-be became headquarters for the local railroad contractors, the Grant brothers, and the town became known as Grants.[iii] To the north and south of Grants were Hispano villages that had been settled a generation earlier. To the southwest, Mormons moving up the Little Colorado watershed in Arizona had established an outpost across the state line at Ramah, New Mexico. These towns were established after the Navajo Long Walk of 1862, when most of the Navajo tribe were starved out by Kit Carson and then marched to and confined at Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico. In the wake of the Navajo removal, Hispanos moved into areas from which they had previously been excluded. Meanwhile the Bosque Redondo years were a disaster for Navajos. In response, the federal government carved out a reservation along the state line between Arizona and New Mexico in 1868 and Navajos returned to the area. At the same time, the railroad tracks pushed relentlessly onward towards the Pacific and along them several more towns were founded including Thoreau and Gallup.
This, then, is the basic cultural terrain of the project. An area that had been Navajo territory had been occupied by westward pushing Hispanos and southward pushing Mormons. Following the creation of a reservation long the New Mexico-Arizona border in 1868, Navajos and their agents began lobbying for more land and the reservation gradually expanded eastward into the Grants-Gallup area. At the same time, the railroad, and later Route 66, brought increased contact with the both the dominant culture and the trade networks that extended around the nation and the world.[iv]
By the end of World War II, the many Hispano villages seemed secure in their sheep-based economy. Anglo and Mormon ranchers enjoyed varying degrees of viability while Navajos were adjusting to life after stock reduction - a federal government Depression-era program that was designed to improve the Navajo range but only decimated the mixed sheep and goat herds and the Navajo subsistence economy that depended on them. But the Hispanos, Mormons, and smaller Anglo ranchers struggled in the wake of droughts and a local economy that was increasingly based on cash rather than goods. By the 1950s, there were no more New Deal programs to provide that cash. To adjust to the new economic realities, many Mormons and Hispanos (usually, but not always, men) left home to look for wage work in the growing cities of the Southwest. Navajos also found wage work, not only as single urban workers, but as family units working in agriculture.
By 1950, the Cold War waged hot in Korea and the government's nuclear weapons production and research programs were in high gear. In that same year, a local man found uranium near Grants, touching off a huge mineral rush in the area.
The story of uranium discovery in the Grants area involves chance and luck. One day in 1950, Paddy Martinez was on his way home from buying a can of baking powder. He stopped to take a nap at the foot of Haystack Butte near Grants, New Mexico. When he woke up, he pocketed a few rocks, which he later showed around town. Eventually he had the rocks assayed. They turned out to contain uranium and thus Martinez touched off the first great uranium rush in New Mexico. Although Martinez could not file a mining claim because the mineral rights to the land where the rocks came from were owned by the Santa Fe Railroad, Martinez was rewarded for his find. The railroad made Paddy a "uranium scout for life" at a salary of two hundred dollars a month.[v]
But who was Paddy Martinez? The answer is more complicated than it would first appear; for the answer to that question depends on who is describing him, for what audience, and why. If we can understand how and why particular sets of stories are told by particular sets of people, we will have made great headway in understanding the complicated relationships that demarcate different groups. Thus stories act as boundary markers between groups. To discover who Paddy Martinez was, we must remove him from his isolation as an individual and enmesh him into the social fabric from which he came to our attention. To do that, we must first think about and theorize the nature of storytelling in the communities of Grants.
Narration and Community Memory
"Stories are what we live in," writes Kerwin Lee Klein, "and in them we find both our worlds and our selves." Klein's reference point for this comment is the ever changing nature of frontier history in the United States. Frontier history, according to Klein, underwent all sorts of transformations based not so much on discovery of new evidence, but on new frameworks for understanding the world. For Klein, this relationship between history and epistemology is part of a larger set of relationships. Knowledge, history, and practice alter each other continuously: "As our traditions change, so do our histories; as our histories change, so do our worlds; as our worlds change, so do our traditions," in a never ending cycle.[vi]
In his argument, Klein dissects national, regional and local histories to show that "narrative mastery comes... from social position" not from form, better research, or any of a host of other variables.[vii] For the most part, Klein is concerned with the ways historians write history. But history writing can be, and frequently is, a local affair. Although academic historians tend to think of writing history as their special preserve, others frequently venture into the terrain. Journalists, of course, write history from time to time; and "amateurs," genealogists and "antiquarians" also write about the past, often in overwhelming detail or about obscure or minutely specific subject matter. In the course of my archival research, I ran across far more of these "other" historians than I did professional scholars. Often these folks were researching something that was only of interest to them or perhaps their families. They wanted to know, for example, about the offspring of a long dead relative, or the previous owners of a piece of property, or the identity of everyone who ever ran the gristmill in their hometown. The Mormon genealogist and the land grant litigant both traced family trees but for different reasons. The former researched to secure the blessings of heaven for long dead relations, the latter to secure the legal rights of ancestors onto descendents. In each case, social position helped determine the topic, means, and methods of research.
Academic and lay practitioner alike were writing new histories, and thus altering the relationship between their own histories, worlds, and traditions. Likewise, their ability to disseminate their findings, and the ramifications on others depended on the social position of the researcher. One set of findings might wind up in a genealogy, another set could appear as evidence in a court case, and a third might make its way into a book issued by a university press, with the final destination depending on the social position of the researcher.
The relationship between narrative and history assumes new dimensions if we move our focus out of the archives into the world of everyday life. People talk about events that are important to them as they happen. These stories are then reinterpreted and retold. With each telling, the rough edges get smoothed out, and concrete narratives emerge complete with plots, morals, and subtexts. We call these narratives "community memory" and oral historians are generally those most likely to encounter them. Community memory is usually encountered orally, but it can just as easily be encountered in the archives or in books as well. In the case of competing community visions, different communities may feel compelled to publish their version of events to codify their narrations or lend them additional authenticity. In other cases, these narratives find their way to the archives as bits and pieces of other projects or as oral histories that have been preserved and transcribed.
Most of the rest of this article is devoted to a discussion of how a variety of communities remember the discoveries of uranium in and around Grants during the 1950s boom. In my retellings, I am not trying to decide which community's version is most authentic or correct. At times, I may point out plot features that are patently false or variations that are highly suspicious. Like Alessandro Portelli, I understand that these "'wrong' tales... allow us to recognize the interests of the tellers and the dreams and desires beneath them."[viii] I use these narratives to learn something about how the competing communities in Western New Mexico construct their ideas of themselves and the world around them. At the same time, however, we should keep in mind Klein's observations regarding the mutability of history and the importance of the teller's social position. In order for us to fully understand these stories, we need to understand something of the underlying conditions of the narrators and their communities. To accomplish this task, I analyze the way communities remember events that profoundly reshaped their lives. As we come to understand these narratives, we learn something about the communities that tell these stories. We discover how the tellers situate themselves in time and place within their communities and how they situate other communities as well.
Making "Race" in the Grants-Gallup Area
As historians have delved into the history of ideas and practices surrounding the concepts of race and ethnicity, they have discovered that the seeming biological realities that equate skin color with race and/or ethnicity are actually ephemeral. Instead, such historians as Barbara Jeanne Fields and Werner Sollors, to name just two, have realized that race and ethnicity are inherently unstable and mutable ideas that are constantly invented and reinvented, enforced and reinforced in order to maintain their legitimacy.[ix] At any given moment, some categories might be available to use while others might not be. The numbers, types, and names of labels can change constantly. Thus while geographer D. W Meinig identified the Southwest as home to three peoples in 1971, anthropologist Edward Spicer saw eleven major groupings and forty-two sub-groupings just one year later.[x] For Meinig, the terms "Indian," "Hispano," and "Anglo," were sufficient, whereas Spicer felt it necessary to differentiate between "Pueblo" and "Piman," "Hispano" and "Urban Norteño," and "Mormon" and "Urban Anglo, (Gentile)" among others. Spicer did not discover whole groups of people that Meinig had missed. Rather, Spicer was interested in a different question and therefore saw more groups in the population than Meinig did.
To understand how race was constituted in the Grants-Gallup area, we can look to how the communities identified themselves and others during the uranium boom. One starting place for building such an understanding is an exploration of the narratives surrounding Paddy Martinez, the man who made the first publicly known uranium strike in the Grants-Gallup region.
Paddy Martinez, the Haystack Butte Strike and "Race"
To answer the question of who Paddy Martinez was, we can turn to the stories surrounding him. We might first turn to published author Raye Ringholz. Ringholz, writing for a national audience in her book Uranium Frenzy: Boom and Bust on the Colorado Plateau, finds it sufficient to describe Martinez as "a Navajo sheepherder" and leave it at that. Ringholz, a native of Utah, focuses on Anglo entrepreneur Charlie Steen, discoverer and developer of the Mi Vida uranium mine, and other activities in the Moab area of her home state. For Ringholz, Martinez provides an interesting and colorful sidelight to the main story of the Anglo speculators and prospectors that populate her narrative. Ringholz provides some details about the discovery that are not found elsewhere. Martinez is initially attracted to some "pretty minerals." In town, Martinez is told (presumably by knowledgeable Anglos) that the minerals are "twentieth century gold that the white men were talking about." In the end, Ringholz portrays Martinez as satisfied with his title of "'official uranium scout' and lifelong monthly pension."[xi]
This telling emphasizes Martinez's Indianness and his innocence. By referring to Martinez as a sheepherder, Ringholz makes him appear to be a "traditional" Navajo. Further, in this account, Martinez seems to have no idea what uranium is or what its potential uses might be. He is attracted to the rocks because they are "pretty," not because of their possible monetary value as "twentieth century gold"; only "white men" were concerned with such things. Finally, Martinez is content with his title of "uranium scout." The term "scout" is a particularly loaded one. In the 19th century, the U.S. military hired Native American scouts for tracking and intelligence work against other Native Americans. Scouts were paid money or goods but rarely enjoyed the long term benefits of a rival nation's defeat. Here too, Martinez is satisfied with missing out on the fruits of victory, in this case potentially millions of dollars. Ringholz makes him appear to be content with his lifetime pension. He becomes, in Robert Berkhoffer's terms, the classic "good Indian" who lived a life of "liberty, simplicity, and innocence."[xii] By using well-known caricatures and key descriptive phrases, Ringholz and her readers create a version of Martinez that conforms to a readily available image. Martinez is the innocent Indian, helpful to the white man and content with his lot, even as he misses out on the main chance.
At the same time, Ringholz identifies Anglos as everything Martinez is not. Anglos are not simple but astute and sophisticated. They are not attracted to uranium by its pretty color but by the profit motive and the potential wealth a discovery represents. They discover uranium not just by accident, but through a combination of hard work, scientific inquiry, and luck. For Ringholz, Anglos and Indians are opposites. For each property that characterizes the one, the other embodies an opposing trait.
Hispano author Abe Peña, born near Grants in the town of San Mateo, also identifies Martinez as Navajo in his memoir of the area. Peña's description is more detailed and covers some of Martinez's life before the boom. According to Peña, Martinez contracted men to shear his sheep and pushed them hard to make his production goals. Later, Martinez acted as a labor contractor for carrot farmers in Grants. Martinez provides the farmers with Navajo laborers in exchange for a commission on each worker. Finally, as for the discovery itself, Peña records that Martinez picked up the rock because "[h]e had heard the rocks might contain a valuable mineral."[xiii] In this version, Martinez already appears as a figure concerned with profit and management. He is neither ignorant nor lazy nor simple. He picks up the rocks because he knows there is profit to be made.
This account jibes nicely with another story of Martinez's earlier years told by an Anglo named Frank Childers. Childers' recollections are based on the times he accompanied his father, a railroad construction foreman. Childers remembers Martinez as a young boy dressed in rags who looked for work on the railroad section gang. Childers' father ignored the boy, but Martinez repeated his attempts. Finally, the elder Childers relented and gave Paddy a job hauling water to the workers. Martinez was a success at this new venture, he "just ran with [the water] bucket all day long." When payday came, the elder Childers took "Paddy down to the store and bought him a pair of Levis and a blue shirt and some shoes and paid him."[xiv]
In this version, Martinez is the bright young lad who, through persistence, befriends an older, accomplished man who provides him with material benefits, in this case Anglo style clothes and shoes. Once dressed in the garb of wage-earning Anglos, Paddy, though fully Navajo, becomes less like a Navajo and more like an Anglo. His Anglicization is made complete through his entrance into the wage economy. By relating this story from Martinez's childhood, Childers seeks to explain the success of the adult Martinez. It seems that Childers considers Martinez's success a result of his rejection of Navajo ways. This is a version of yet another cultural myth, that of the Indian ward. United States government policy has consistently sought to Anglicize Native Americans by trying to get them to behave like white folks. Policies such as allotment (the dividing of reservations into individually owned plots of land) and detribalization through education were designed to create individualistic, materialistic, economic actors on the American model.[xv] The Childers account positions Martinez as the willing student and ward of the older white man that policy makers in Washington so desperately wanted Native Americans to be. Whether Martinez actually was that way as a youth is anybody's guess.
Abe Peña, however, does something that Frank Childers does not. Peña introduces Hispanos into the story of Martinez's past. Hispanos, Peña tells us, were close to Martinez. They never used his nickname, Paddy, but called him by his given name Julián. Martinez attended fiestas and rooster pulls at Peña's hometown of San Mateo. Peña also assures his readers that "Paddy had a lot of friends," and that although it was against the law to sell liquor to Navajos, "a passing bottle didn't make any judgements."[xvi] From these tidbits, readers might infer that Hispanos and Navajos have a special relationship built on mutual respect and friendship.
The reference to the passing bottle may also connote something else to Peña's local readers. One story I heard repeatedly form Anglos, Hispanos and Navajos in the Grants area, although no informant I met wanted to go on record with it, went something like this: Martinez went to town to buy baking powder. While in town he also purchased some fortified wine. He drank the wine before heading home, got drunk and passed out at the foot of Haystack Mesa. Upon awakening, he saw the uranium and made his discovery. Martinez's own family corroborated this version. His son Leo recalled in a 1976 interview that when his father came home to announce the discovery, his mother and father fought about the bottle of wine that Paddy was still carrying. While Martinez insisted he had made a major find, his wife insisted it was "the wine talking."[xvii]
This version raises a central question concerning both the perception of Navajos by outsiders and Navajo self-perception. In order to understand fully the consequences of the story, we have to delve into the volatile subject of Navajo alcohol consumption. Historically, Native Americans and alcohol have had a negative connection in the public mind. As Robert Berkhofer has pointed out, the image of the ignoble Indian who has adopted "white vices instead of virtues" and is thus "degraded [and] often drunken" is a dominant idea in American thought.[xviii]
Modern patterns of Navajo drinking began in the 1880s with the arrival of the railroad. From their Hispano and Anglo neighbors, Navajos learned binge drinking, a pattern of consumption common on the western frontier. A remnant of antebellum drinking patterns, the frontier style encouraged public drinking to the point of drunkenness.[xix] Initially, at least, only the wealthiest Navajos could afford to buy whiskey, and the supply was limited. After a period of communal work, (such as shearing, harvesting, or after a ceremony), when many neighbors and kin were present, a relative was dispatched to a border town or off-reservation area to purchase whiskey and bring it back. The wealthy whiskey owner would then dole out the whiskey a cup at a time to those present while retaining much for himself and his immediate kin, who would then consume to the point of passing out in the privacy of a hogan.[xx]
Poorer Navajos were not completely dependent on such generosity if they wished to consume alcohol. Pooling their resources when in town, they might communally purchase a bottle which was then consumed together until it was empty or all the purchasers were too intoxicated to continue. Other Navajos might join this group without purchasing on the expectation that they would reciprocate in the future.[xxi] This pattern is one of the earliest recorded and dates from the railroad period. Navajos, usually men, consumed in border town back alleys and vacant lots, or just outside of town.[xxii] This group binge style of drinking, as it is called by alcohol researchers, is not only the product of learning the style from Anglos and Hispanos. Among other reasons for the binge style's popularity is the fact that it was illegal for Native Americans to purchase alcohol during this period. Therefore, rapid consumption ensured that one's money was well-spent and minimized the chances of getting caught. Even after Navajo alcohol consumption was decriminalized in 1953, the reservation remained dry and the pattern continued.
When the federal stock reduction program of the New Deal ended the subsistence life-style for most Navajos and forced them into the cash economy, alcohol became easier to purchase and its use more widespread. The massive road building programs of the post-World War II years made travel to and from border towns easier, and drinking in town became more common.[xxiii] Because the reservation continued to be dry, the vast majority of Navajo drinking took place in a few bordertowns and its visual impact on outsiders was magnified.
Because Navajo drinking is more visible than Anglo or Hispano drinking, it is widely assumed by outsiders that Navajos have a unique problem with alcohol or share such a problem with other Native American groups. Statistics that compare Navajo drinking and its consequent results with the population of the United States seem to confirm this. Deaths from cirrhosis, motor vehicle accidents, homicides, and suicides where alcohol is involved are all higher than national averages. However, when researchers Jerold Levy and Stephen Kunitz compared Navajo mortality rates in heavily rural Navajo counties to those in neighboring heavily rural Anglo counties in New Mexico and Arizona there was almost no difference in mortality patterns due to cirrhosis, homicides, and suicides. They found that the higher motor vehicle fatalities for Navajos were due to "distance from medical facilities, distances driven, unsafe and poorly maintained vehicles, and [the fact that many Navajo drivers do not have valid driver's licenses]."[xxiv] They comment, "at present alcohol problems among the Navajos as measured by death from cirrhosis are certainly not greater than those of their non-Indian neighbors despite any opinion those neighbors might hold."[xxv]
In other words, alcoholism in the Grants-Gallup area has been a regional problem shared by Anglos and Navajos alike (Kunitz and Levy did not compare statistics for Hispanos). Yet, because of stereotypes of Native American drinking habits, residents of the area - Navajos, Hispanos, and Anglos - all have thought that Navajo alcoholism and drinking were a uniquely Navajo problem. They continued to think this, despite the fact that by the 1970s, Navajo drinking was losing its distinctive characteristics; rural Navajos drank more like the hard-drinking rural Anglos they lived near. At the same time, those Navajos who lived and drank in white-collar, urban settings shared the moderate drinking habits of the communities they lived and worked in.[xxvi] Rural residents, regardless of race, shared one pattern of consumption while urban dwellers, regardless of race, shared another. Thus when Peña identifies Martinez as having been drinking the day he made his discovery of uranium, it serves to counter-act evidence of Martinez's as an assimilated go-getter relegates him back in to the category of the besotted "bad Indian."
Alcohol consumption is not the only area where Peña finds differences between Hispanos and Navajos. At one point in Peña's narrative, Martinez moved to a conventional house in the town of Bluewater. However, he then builds a hogan next door and turned the house over to the chickens.[xxvii] In Peña's view, Hispanos and Navajos may be friends they are hardly equals. Martinez, and by implication, all Navajos, are ill-suited for modern living. Eventually, Martinez returns to his original home area to live out his days among friends and family in a traditional hogan. Peña, meanwhile, travels the world as a foreign service officer directing Peace Corps and USAID programs. The juxtaposition of these life trajectories is striking. Martinez is street smart and ambitious but unable to make the move from reservation to town. Peña rises from an agricultural, village background to travel the world. These are two very different images. Although it may be a synochdoche to assign to all Navajos the attributes of Martinez and to all Hispanos the attributes of Peña, the narrator has made his bias plain. In the end, for Peña, Navajos are trapped by the past, while Hispanos have a place in the future.
This first three accounts have agreed that Paddy Martinez was a Navajo, although what kind of person he was is less clear. But other accounts call into question his Navajo identity. For a variety of reasons, these other accounts identify Martinez as a mixed-blood. In part, this is because Martinez is known to have identified himself as being of mixed heritage. In his own terms, he was "75¢ Navajo 25¢ Mexican."[xxviii] Martinez used a different cultural map than Peña when he made this statement. Martinez probably meant Hispano. He may have been following the terminology used by some Anglos in which Hispanos were called Mexicans and Mexican nationals were called "Mexicans from Mexico."[xxix] The Navajo language, however, does not differentiate between Mexican and Hispano. In the Navajo language, the word for Mexican is Naakaii. The many Navajos who carry a variant of that word as a surname, including former tribal chairman Raymond Nakai, is a testament to the history of intermarriage among Hispanos and Navajos.[xxx]
But other groups differentiate quite emphatically between Mexican and Hispano. First and foremost among those who draw clear lines between Mexicans and Hispanos are Hispanos themselves. John Nieto-Phillips argues convincingly that Hispano identity was formed between the 1880s and 1920s as a response to the arrival of the railroad, the political battles surrounding the drive for New Mexico statehood, and the promotional literature of the nascent tourist industry. Hispanos increasingly identified themselves as direct descendents of the conquistadors and as separate from the heritage of miscegenation and intermarriage that they associated with Mexico. In doing so, they sought to claim entitlement as white Americans to the full benefits of statehood and commerce and to secure the right to use Spanish in public realms.[xxxi]
Among those who identify Martinez as a mestizo is George Dannenbaum, the former mayor of Grants. Dannenbaum himself is of mixed Hispano and German-Jewish heritage and his ambiguous ethnic identity might have had something to do with his willingness to identify Martinez as being of mixed heritage.[xxxii] Dannenbaum describes Martinez as "a tall ruddy-complexioned who looked more Spanish than Indian."[xxxiii] As Dannenbaum continues, he describes Martinez as intelligent and hard working and as having more contact with "his Anglo and Spanish neighbors than with the Navajo tribe." Dannenbaum leads the reader to the conclusion that Martinez's phenotypical features were an indication of his assimilation and talent. That Martinez "looked more Spanish than Indian" was, for Dannenbaum, a strong sign that Martinez did not behave like an Indian and that he was "by no means a typical Navajo."[xxxiv]
In characterizing Martinez in this way, Dannenbaum may also have been relying on older scientific notions of race to reach his conclusions about Martinez. In both folk and scientific cultures, physical characteristics were thought to correspond to multiple social and psychological traits well into the twentieth century. Adherents to phrenology, popular in the antebellum United States, thought that the shape of the head correlated to talents, skills, and emotional makeup. Likewise skin color has been correlated to the capacity for intelligence or ability to participate in democracy or perhaps to the ability to experience authentic religious feeling, move freely to music, or keep a beat. Historians have known for several years that race is not a category that can be explained biologically. As Barbara Jeanne Fields reminds us, scientists in the past who sought a biological basis for determining race, "failed to discover any objective criterion upon which to classify people; to their chagrin, every criterion that they tried varied more within so-called races than between them."[xxxv] In other words, there are no reliable physical or phenotypical characteristics that Dannenbaum could seize on to declare that Martinez "looked more Spanish than Indian."
Yet despite the failure of scientist and layman alike to define race, notions of race persisted aided by the gloss of Darwinian notions of species. After Darwin, scholars and others began pondering whether racial mixing led to degeneration of the superior race or to the uplifiting of the weaker race. In the 19th century, anthropologists like Lewis Henry Morgan attempted to answer such questions. For Morgan, and his later followers, Native American "advances" in acculturation were due, "not to the length of time a tribe had contact with whites, but to the degree a tribe had intermarried with whites."[xxxvi] Morgan even claimed that racial uplift was visible in the skin color of various Native Americans. One tribe was considered very advanced because "the color of the Indian women is quite uniform and is light."[xxxvii] The shift to a market oriented agricultural economy of another tribe was due to the "virtue of the white blood already taken up and distributed among [them]."[xxxviii]
In New Mexico, these semi-scientific ideas found fertile ground awaiting them. Notions of blood purity in Spanish culture dated from the Reconquista, a seven-hundred year period during which most of Spain was recaptured from the Moors by Catholics. These ideas were carried from Spain to Mexico and from Mexico to New Mexico. Light skin pigmentation and physical appearance were markers of legitimacy and status, especially if the possessor of these characteristics could produce an extensive family tree. Although associations of blood and race diminished somewhat during the late eighteenth century, they were revived in the nineteenth century among Hispanos. Increasingly throughout the nineteenth century, elite Hispanos identified blood with race and denied or covered up evidence of intermarriage between communities or assimilation by members of one community into another.[xxxix]
Whether Dannenbaum was relying on bad science or local folk definitions of race, he believed that he could see in Martinez's features the physical indicators of a mixed-race heritage. But further complicating his analysis is an additional disclaimer. Dannenbaum reminds his readers that "Paddy and his family lived on the checkerboard area of the Navajo Reservation; so he had more contact with this Anglo and Spanish neighbors than with the Navajo tribe."[xl] What weight Dannenbaum assigned Martinez's blood quantum and what weight he assigned his environment is anybody's guess. However, it is important to note that Dannenbaum saw Martinez's modest economic success in life as a product of both blood heritage and environment.
Dannenbaum's account emphasizes an aspect of Martinez that most other accounts leave out - the mixed race background of Martinez. In doing so, Dannenbaum blurs the clean dividing lines that help keep communities separate in the Grants-Gallup area. But rather than merely identify Martinez as a product of mestizaje, Dannenbaum uses psuedo-scientific and environmental explanations to explain that Martinez is an exceptional Navajo. The effect, in the end, is to maintain the boundaries of race, rather than blur them.
Navajos who recounted the Paddy Martinez story, however, had a firm grasp on who they thought Martinez was. Tom Ration told an interviewer in 1968 that Martinez was "a half-breed, half Mexican and half Navajo."[xli] Jim Charley, a local Navajo official, related a similar version to other Navajos at a local government meeting near Smith Lake, New Mexico in 1969. He told his audience that Martinez "a half-breed" and was "the little guy that found the uranium."[xlii] For these men, Martinez was a "little guy" who made good.
What is remarkable in these Navajo narratives is how Martinez knows and finds uranium. In the Ration account, "Paddy's mother knew this uranium for a long time, for many years, [the] Navajo knew it for many years and they used to dye wool with it."[xliii] Charley asserts that Martinez "didn't know nothing about [uranium]. ... [H]is mother was one of the good weaver[s] in these days and his mother... always dye[d] her wool with the uranium color, yellow color. And she brought up some rocks that [were] in [the] vein between the rocks...."[xliv] In both versions, once his mother shows him where the uranium is, Paddy Martinez takes the rocks to Grants to have them assayed.
In these versions, Martinez's mixed heritage is less important than is his connection to traditional Navajo activities. As in the Ringholz account, the possession of sheep and wool is central to marking Paddy Martinez as a traditional Navajo. But rather than being merely picturesque, tradition is seen in these accounts as extremely useful to the modern Navajo. Because Martinez's mother was an expert rug weaver and wool dyer she knew uranium. Once Martinez gains this knowledge, he is able to identify the valuable rock and its source. Martinez was not attracted to uranium because it was "pretty" but because he knew it had economic value. (Exactly how he has come to know this is left to the listener's imagination.) The quest for uranium leads him to his mother, who then shows him where to find ore veins.
The symbolic importance of this part of the account cannot be understated, in part because it is almost assuredly fabricated. To the best of my knowledge, there are no other accounts of Navajos using uranium in any form to achieve a yellow color in wool.[xlv] The introduction of this element into the story, therefore, serves a different purpose. In telling this version, speakers root the uranium discovery in traditional knowledge. By doing so, narrators and audience assured each other that wealth gained by uranium development carried the sanction of tradition.
These versions go even further to stress that uranium was properly incorporated into the Navajo social and economic patterns. Unlike Anglo versions, the conclusions to the Navajo stories do not emphasize Martinez's individual gain. Rather, they stress the good that comes to all Navajos. Thus in the Ration story, the moral is that "this is where the Navajos get their money," while for Charley the moral is that "most of our people around the Smith Lake area and [the surrounding areas], they have found some uranium on their land and these Navajos are very well fixed today."[xlvi] By emphasizing the gains of the group over the gains of the individual, Smith Lake Navajos were attempting to reassure themselves that the economic gains of uranium activity were being properly assimilated into the Navajo world. For many Navajos, economic gain for the individual was less important than succeeding as a group or "going up together."[xlvii] Richard Hobson, writing about Ramah Navajos before the era of uranium development, described Navajo economic cooperation as "rooted in the family [and] generalized to include sharing with neighbors and friends - whenever there is anything to share."[xlviii] Philosopher John Ladd, a member of the Harvard University Laboratory of Human Social Relations "Rimrock" project that studied the area around Grants, described Navajos as understanding that for Navajos, "a neighbor's success will contribute to one's own welfare."[xlix] For many Navajos in the Smith Lake area, individual wealth was less important than the collective wealth of the community. Their stories reflect this value.
The checkerboard communities' sense of their well-being, progress, and ability to integrate the uranium industry into their prevailing world views may account for another interesting aspect of these two accounts. Just as the narrators root Martinez's discovery in traditional skills and knowledge so as to make uranium seem more Navajo, they also engage in a horizontal shift of events to locate more firmly the discoveries within their communities. According to oral historian Alessandro Portelli, a horizontal shift occurs when an event is endowed with a new date to give it an "adequate time-marking function."[l] In other words, the chronology of past events are re-arranged to serve the symbolic needs of the narrator and the audience. Thus Jim Charley moves the discovery to "about 1957," and Tom Ration firmly dates it to that same year.[li]
The chronological shift is rooted in the local chronology of the narrators. Both narrators are from the Smith Lake area and the uranium boom came to them well after the Martinez discovery. In 1958, uranium was discovered near Smith Lake by an Anglo uranium developer named R. D. Bokum. He sunk a shaft in 1959 and mining commenced at the new the Black Jack No. 1 Mine.[lii] His company drilled a second shaft in 1960, just to the west of Smith Lake, which became the Black Jack No. 2 Mine.[liii] Local leasing for exploration probably began in 1956 or 1957 and money flowed into the area. Thus Ration and Jim changed the dates in their stories to reflect their experiences and not Martinez's. After the successful development of the Black Jack mines, more money - earned by Navajos leasing their mineral rights, road rights of way, and surface and subsurface royalties to prospectors and mining companies - continued to contribute to local wealth. In the late sixties, as the market for uranium picked up, uranium companies again explored the Smith Lake area. Successful strikes occurred again during 1967, although new development of those finds had not started at the time of the interviews.[liv]
Taken together, these two narratives show that in the 1960s, checkerboard Navajos were engaged in a process of self-fashioning that was necessitated by the rise of uranium mining. The stories they told about Paddy Martinez connected the discovery to their daily lived experiences. At the same time, the stories sought to re-assure both tellers and audience that the wealth being generated by uranium mining (to the extent that they received it) was being fairly and justly distributed in accord with the Navajo world view. Further, by marginalizing the role of the mixed-blood Martinez and emphasizing the traditional sources of his knowledge, Navajos located the Martinez legend, the uranium find, and its ongoing outcomes away from an individual on the margin of the culture and more firmly rooted it within the culture itself.
The stories people told about Paddy Martinez reveal how the tellers thought about race in specific places at particular times. Because different tellers crafted different stories about Martinez, identified different details as being important, or even changed important events and circumstances, we learn a good deal about how various groups thought about themselves and others. From the various stereotypes first identified by Robert Berkhoffer and used by Peña and Frank Childers to the more specific and less stereotypical memories of Paddy's own family, narrators used the story of Martinez's discovery to disseminate their views of Navajos in general. And if some tellers let Martinez stand in for all Navajos, others, like George Dannenbaum, stressed his uniqueness. In so doing, this latter group indicated all the things Martinez was that they believed typical Navajos were not. By listening to the narratives concerning Paddy Martinez, his discovery emerges as a contested event. No one disputes that he made the discovery, of course. Rather, what is under dispute is what it means to be Anglo or Navajo or Hispano or even if these categories all existed.
Stories and Power
Given the multiplicity of stories that surround Paddy Martinez perhaps we need to pause and take stock. Before we can proceed, we need to understand that in re-telling these stories, we did more than just try to reconcile competing views of the truths. We also learned something about the tellers' ideas of themselves and relationships to the wider world around them. From a variety of times, places, and social positions came a variety of narratives. Each of these variables combined with each other to tell us something about both the tellers and their audiences. Thus we learned as much about Abe Peña as about Paddy Martinez. Yet there are still a few puzzles to ponder before we leave the subject of narratives.
Perhaps so many different stories circulate about Martinez because he was different things to different people at different times. Similar modes of identity have been described by Chela Sandoval.[lv] Sandoval's examination of Third World feminisms in the U.S. reveals that many feminists of color have engaged multiple strategies to achieve their goals. Using a mode of consciousness she describes as "differential," such feminists pick and choose among a variety of strategies, forming temporary alliances with a variety of communities. "The differential mode of consciousness," she writes, "operates like the clutch of an automobile: the mechanism that permits the driver to select, engage, and disengage gears in a system for the transmission of power."[lvi] In the cases she describes, it allows feminists to respond to specific situations with measures most likely to achieve results by moving among and between various hegemonic communities of thought. She describes the "guerilla war" in which many women of color engage on a day-to-day basis wherein they adopt a category of identity for one situation but are ready to move to a different category should a new situation require it.
Perhaps then, Martinez was doing something similar. He was the good Indian when the situation required it, not averse to sharing a bottle if the opportunity presented itself, a good family man, a traditionalist at heart, and so on. Depending on the context of who he was dealing with and where he was, Martinez could have altered his identity ever so slightly to convey what he deemed the proper image. From velveteen blouse adorned with turquoise jewelry to western shirt adorned with imitation mother of pearl buttons, Paddy Martinez had clothes for every situation. It could be that the multiplicity of stories surrounding Martinez reflect his ability, his agency, in bringing about what he thought his life should be.
However, just because Martinez may have been able to generate many different stories that marked different aspects of his personality, it does not mean he had control of those stories once they were in circulation. Tellers and listeners generated new contexts and new meanings for old stories. Along the way, they altered events in the narratives to suit changing circumstances. We should not be surprised that the least complementary protrayal of Martinez has gained the widest circulation through a book published on a major press. Childers, Dannenbaum, and Peña all found readers in local markets through private and regional presses. The particular Navajo versions of the Martinez story retold here might have dissappeared for good had they not been recorded, transcribed, and filed away in the Special Collections of the Center for Southwest Research at the University of New Mexico's Zimmerman Library.
Clearly, the differences in the circulation, or lack thereof, of these stories tells us something about the power relationships within and between these local communities as well as their relationships with the wider world. Those stories that gained the widest circulation was that told by a white outsider: Raye Ringholz. Hispanos, Anglos, and Mormons told stories that circulated regionally. Their rough equality in forms of story dissemination indicates the relative equality in their local power at the time these works were published. Finally, Navajos had the least success disseminating their stories. It comes as no surprise then, to realize that Navajos were at the bottom of the racial heirarchy in the Grants-Gallup area.
Stories, even "wrong stories" have a lot to offer us. The can help us define social hierarchies, illustrate attitudes about land, illuminate conflict and more. In the archive, we are pressed for time, worrying about how much battery-power is left in the laptop if this or that is worth photocopying and when the library is going to fix the microfilm reader. It is no surprise we often slough off "wrong tales" and community memory. I hope I have shown that these tales have a lot to offer us. The can help us define social hierarchies, illustrate attitudes about land, illuminate conflict and more. Used properly, they can be as enlightening as census data, government reports, and correspondence. Happy prospecting.
[i]William J. Parrish, "The German Jew and the Commercial Revolution in Territorial New Mexico" Part I, New Mexico Historical Review 35, no. 1 (January 1960): 23, 35; and Part II, no. 2 (April 1960): 149-50.
[ii]Abe Peña, Memories of Cíbola: Stories from New Mexico Villages (Albuquerque, N.M.: University of New Mexico Press, 1997), p.22-3.
[iii]Hope McClure, "Grants, New Mexico Where Did it Come From? Where is it Going?" in Welcome to Grants, Cibola County File, Mother Whiteside Memorial Library, Grants, New Mexico.
[iv]There are no published histories of the Grants-Gallup area. This overview is based on the chapters that follow. Relevant citation may be found there.
[v]This is a summary of many different versions, but hews closest to that found in George Dannenbaum, Boom to Bust: Remembrances of the Grants, New Mexico Uranium Boom (Albuquerque, New Mexico: Creative Designs, 1994), pp. 38-39. It also conforms closely to an undated taped interview with Paddy Martinez's son Leo, Leo Martinez, interviewed by Sue Winsor, tape recording, New Mexico State University, Grants Branch, Special Collections, CT 605.
[vi]Kerwin Lee Klein, Frontiers of Historical Imagination: Narrating the European Conquest of Native America 1890-1990 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), pp.5-6. On the changing practices within the historical profession as practiced in the United States see Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).
[vii]Klein, p. 285.
[viii]Alessandro Portelli, "The Death of Luigi Trastulli: Memory and the Event," in The Death of Luigi Trastulli and Other Stories: Form and Meaning in Oral History (Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1991), p 2.
[ix]Barbara Jeanne Fields, "Slavery, Race, Ideology in the United States of America," New Left Review, no. 181 (May/June 1990): pp. 95-118; Werner Sollors, ed. The Invention of Ethnicity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989); see also the many excellent articles collected in "Race," Writing, and Difference, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986); David R. Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (New York: Verso, 1990); Barbara Jeanne Fields, "Race and Ideology in American History," in Region, Race, and Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of C. Vann Woodward, eds. J. Morgan Kousser and James M. McPherson (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982).
[x]D. W. Meinig, Southwest: Three Peoples in Geographical Change 1600-1970 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971); Edward H. Spicer, "Plural Society in the Southwest," in Edward M. Spicer and Raymond H. Thompson, Plural Society in the Southwest (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1972).
[xi]Raye C. Ringholz, Uranium Frenzy: Boom and Bust on the Colorado Plateau (New York: Norton, 1989), p. 76.
[xii]Robert F. Berkhoffer, Jr., The White Man's Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the Present, (New York: Vintage, 1979), p.28.
[xiii]Abe Peña, Memories of Cibola: Stories from New Mexico Villages (Albuquerque, N.M.: University of New Mexico Press, 1997), pp. 155-8.
[xiv]Gary L. Tietjen, Encounter with the Frontier (n.p.: 1967), p. 86.
[xv]Berkhoffer, pp. 115-175.
[xvi]Peña, p. 156.
[xvii]Interview of Leo Martinez and others by Sue Winsor, New Mexico State University, Grants Branch, Special Collections, CT 605. The undated tape is either badly deteriorated or badly recorded. Only Leo Martinez's voice is clearly audible on the tape. Parts of the interview show up in the article "The Future was Found in a Yellow Rock," from the Heritages supplement to the Grants Daily Beacon, July 2, 1976. Winsor was active in the Grants area as a reporter from around 1976 until about 1981.
[xviii]Berkhofer, p. 30.
[xix]Stephen J. Kunitz and Jerrold E. Levy with Tracy Andrews, Chena DuPuy, K, Ruben Gabriel and Scott Russell, Drinking Careers: A Twenty-five-year Study of Three Navajo Populations (New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 17.
[xx]Jerrold E. Levy and Stephen J. Kunitz, Indian Drinking: Navajo Practices and Anglo-American Theories (New York: Wiley and Sons, 1974), p.77
[xxi]Levy and Kunitz, Indian Drinking, p. 77.
[xxii]Levy and Kunitz, Indian Drinking, p. 75.
[xxiii]Kunitz and Levy, Drinking Careers, pp. 20, 181-2.
[xxiv]Kunitz and Levy, Drinking Careers, pp. 168-191 quote on p. 185.
[xxv]Kunitz and Levy, Drinking Careers, p. 181.
[xxvi]Kunitz and Levy, Drinking Careers, pp. 229-30.
[xxvii]Peña, p. 157.
[xxviii]Hope McClure, "Grants, New Mexico Where Did it Come From? Where is it Going?" in "Welcome to Grants," Cibola County File, Mother Whiteside Memorial Library, Grants, New Mexico.
[xxix]For an example see Gary Tietjen, Encounter p. 35.
[xxx]Robert W. Young and William Morgan, Sr., eds. The Navajo Language: A Grammar and Colloquial Dictionary rev. ed. (Albuquerque, N.M.: University of New Mexico Press, 1987) p. 576
[xxxi]John Nieto-Phillips, ""No Other Blood': History, Language, and 'Spanish American' Ethnic Identity in New Mexico, 1880s-1920s (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1997). Ramon Gutiérrez has argued that many Hispanos are, in fact, mixed-blood and detribalized Indians known as genízaros in When Jesus Came the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500-1846 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1991). Carey McWilliams argued famously that Hispano identification with Spain as opposed to Mexico was a "fantasy heritage" in North from Mexico: The Spanish-Speaking People of the United States (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1949; reprint, with a new introduction by the author, New York: Greenwood Press, 1968), p. 43. The most authoritative argument for the distinctiveness of Hispano culture is Richard L. Nostrand The Hispano Homeland (Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992). For an overview, see Sylvia Rodriguez, "The Hispano Homeland Debate Revisited," Perspectives in Mexican American Studies 3 (1992): 95-114.
[xxxii]Geroge Dannenbaum, interview with author, April 19, 1996, tape recording in possesion of author.
[xxxiii]George Dannenbaum, Boom to Bust: Remembrances of the Grants, New Mexico Uranium Boom (Albuquerque, N.M.: Creative Designs, 1994), p. 40.
[xxxiv]Dannenbaum, p. 40.
[xxxv]Fields, p. 97, n. 5.
[xxxvi]Robert E. Bieder, Science Encounters the Indian: 1820-1870: the Early Years of American Ethnology (Norman, Okla: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986), p. 219.
[xxxvii]Lewis Henry Morgan, quoted in Bieder, p. 219.
[xxxviii]Lewis Henry Morgan, quoted in Bieder p. 225-6.
[xxxix]Ramon Gutierrez, When Jesus Came, pp. 199-201 covers blood notions in Spain and the New World for the earlier period. John Nieto-Phillips, "'No Other Blood,'" chronicles the increasing use of blood as a metaphor and the erasure of miscegenation throughout the nineteenth century.
[xl]Dannenbaum, Boom to Bust, p. 40.
[xli]Doris Duke American Indian Oral History Collection, 1967-1972, Navajo Transcripts, Center for Southwest Research, Zimmerman Library, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico (Hereafter cited as Doris Duke) Box 11, File 154. In the original Doris Duke transcripts, ellipses (...) are used to denote pauses by the speaker. I do not follow this practice when quoting from these materials. Therefore, ellipses retain their usual meaning of representing text that I have omitted.
[xlii]Doris Duke, Box 12, File 289.
[xliii]Doris Duke, Box 11, File 154.
[xliv]Doris Duke, Box 12, File 289.
[xlv]All accounts of Navajo wool dyeing stress the use of botanicals. For example, see Gladys A. Reichard, Weaving a Navajo Blanket, [New York : Dover Publications, 1974. Originally published as Navajo Shepherd and Weaver (New York: J. J. Augustin, 1936)].
[xlvi]Doris Duke, Box 11, File 154; Box 12 File 289.
[xlvii]G. Mark Schoepfle, Kenneth Y. Begishe, Rose T. Morgan, Johnny John, Henry Thomas, Phillip Reno with Joanne Davis and Beverly Tso, A Study of Navajo Perceptions of the Impact of Environmental Changes Relating to Energy Resource Development, (Shiprock, N.M.: Navajo Community College, 1979), p. 14.
[xlviii]Richard Hobson, "Navaho Acquisitive Values," Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archeology and Ethnology, Harvard University 42 no. 3, Reports of the Rimrock Project Values Series No. 5, (1954): p. 23.
[xlix]Ladd, p. 224, p. 253.
[l]Portelli, p. 26.
[li]Doris Duke, Box 12, File 289; Box 11, File154.
[lii]M. E. MacRae, "Geology of the Black Jack No. 1 Mine, Smith Lake Area," in Geology and Technology of the Grants Uranium Region comp. Vincent C. Kelley, New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources Memoir 15 (Albuquerque, N.M.: 1963), p. 45.
[liii]William G. Hoskins, "Geology of the Black Jack No. 2 Mine, Smith Lake Area," in Geology and Technology of the Grants Uranium Region comp. Vincent C. Kelley, New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources Memoir 15 (Albuquerque, N.M.: 1963), p.49.
[liv]William L. Chenoweth and Harlen K. Holen, "Exploration in Grants Uranium Region Since 1963," in Geology and Mineral Technology of the Grants Uranium Region, 1979 comp. Christopher A. Rautman, New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources Memoir 38 (Socorro, N.M.: 1980), p. 17.
[lv]Chela Sandoval, "U.S. Third World Feminism: The Theory and Method of Oppositional Consciousness in the Postmodern World," Genders 10 (Spring 1991): 1-23.