Earlier, I discussed tourist Gallup. Below, you'll see how Navajos used Gallup in the 1950s.
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The service industries of Gallup were directed at tourists, no doubt. But also, they were directed at a wide variety of locals who lived near, but not in, Gallup. The town acted as a trade center for the surrounding Navajo reservation and the checkerboard areas, and for nearby Anglo, Hispano, and Mormon towns as well. Gallup was a wholesale and retail center. It also offered wage labor and recreation opportunities not always available in the surrounding small towns and reservation areas. To understand how people in the hinterlands navigated Gallup, we must try to reconstruct their patterns of movement. We need to figure out where they came from, where they went, and why they went there.
At the beginning of the1950s, the road system in the Grants-Gallup area was, at best, primitive. Route 66 was certainly a fine road, as was Route 666, which ran north from Gallup to Shiprock. In 1950, the road south to Zuñi and Ramah was not yet paved. Indeed most roads in the Grants-Gallup area that were not in towns were not paved. The best of this lot were graded and graveled but many were little more than tracks. A good dose of weather would render the roads impassible. Thus, the first problem for locals wishing to visit Gallup was getting there.
Indeed, the roads that led to Gallup either directly or via Routes 66 and 666 were so awful that visiting anthropologists filled their notebooks with harangues about the combination of bad roads and bad weather that hampered their journeys. David McAllester hit a bump so severe in September 1950 that he recorded it in his field notes. George Mills was plagued with car trouble. In the space of one week during March of 1952 he got stuck twice. The first time he broke his shovel and consequently, while digging out the second time, he was covered in "freezing muck." Thomas F. O'Dea moaned in his journal that he had to order a new tire, "thanks to these roads."
A trip to Gallup was no small proposition in bad weather. One Ramah woman took eight hours to make the forty-plus-mile trip because she got stuck four times. Other times, folks postponed trips until the condition of the roads improved. The road situation even affected the scheduling of community events. In one case, the Hispano town of Atarque was too small to host its own priest and so shared one with Zuñi. Because the priest had to travel from Zuñi to say Mass during the town's Feast Day, the celebration was moved from March, when roads were typically terrible, to October when they were more reliable. Spending a night out when one's car got stuck was not particularly unusual, although it paid to have friends along the route. When a Mormon man got stuck overnight, he stayed with Hispano friends he had met when he used to deliver mail in the area.
Despite the hassles, many folks made the trip to Gallup when they could. On the weekends, Gallup could get positively crowded. Not only was there increased automobile traffic, but horse-drawn wagons from Zuñi and the closer parts of the Navajo reservation clogged the streets. Tracing what these visitors did and where they went is a difficult task. It is made easier by the fact that we have access to a remarkable record of daily life for Gallup's visitors in 1950 and 1951. During those years, anthropologist John Roberts lived in Gallup with his family while pursuing his work on the Rimrock Project. His wife, Marie Roberts, although not formally part of the project and not credited with working on it, kept extensive field notes of the comings and goings to and from their house in Gallup. Marie Roberts's role in the accumulation of information may not have been appreciated by the Harvard researchers who ran the project, but her work was instrumental to her husband's and the project's success. Marie Roberts was in a pretty good position to keep up on where people were going in town. Her second entry noted that "our house seems to be a popular place for visitors at lunchtime -- this is the third time in the last four days that visitors have arrived at noon." By feeding lunch-time visitors and hosting overnight guests, Marie Roberts helped cement the relationships that facilitated her husband's work.
Marie Roberts adopted the methods of her husband by carefully recording who was visiting and where they went in town. The movies, for example, were a popular destination for Anglos, Mormons, Zuñis, and Navajos alike. Depending on the visitors' social positions, a simple trip to the movies could take on enormous complexity. For three Mormon women from Ramah, a trip into Gallup made them "excited like school kids on a vacation." The attraction of the movies for Ramah residents was so great that the church began showing movies in the ward house to keep folks in town and away from the possible corruptions in Gallup. Many folks made the trek explicitly to see movies and many saw more than one during the trip. One couple - the man of mixed tribal background and raised at Zuñi, his wife a Czech immigrant he met in Chicago - always saw two movies during their weekly visit to town from a nearby national monument where he worked. They saw a Western for him, and another, not a Western, for her. Having the price of a ticket did not guarantee fair treatment however. A Navajo man was asked to leave a movie theater when another (presumably Anglo) patron thought he was drunk. The Navajo man had his money refunded, left, and then re-entered, paying again. The largely Anglo and Hispano audience seemed not to notice that he was the same man who had been asked to leave moments before.
Roberts's notes reveal that these people came from Gallup's hinterlands for more than just entertainment. Shopping also was a popular activity. Jay's Supermarket along Route 66 catered to a variety of customers. Roberts ran into both Navajos and Ramah Mormons there. But not everybody liked Jay's. Zuñis, for example tended to prefer the California and the San Juan supermarkets. It is unclear why different groups favored one establishment over another. It may have been that one market offered different or better credit arrangements. Perhaps a particular establishment had a better history of treatment of customers or hired people from a particular group. Jay's for example, hired a Ramah Mormon. Your Food Store, however, appears to have attracted some Ramah residents by buying their farm products. Food shopping was not the only activity that had a specific cultural geography. John Roberts recorded several of Zuñi preferences. According to Roberts, Zuñis patronized specific establishments for dry cleaning, shoe repair, and gasoline.
One thing to which neither Zuñis nor Navajos had access in Gallup was a public restroom. Consequently, they used the dry river bed that bisected the town north of Route 66 as a place to relieve themselves or, alternatively, called on friends like Marie Roberts and hoped they were home. Native American visitors suffered other indignities in Gallup. Some service providers raised prices for Native American customers. One Navajo paid one-third more for his haircut than a white customer did. Some of Marie Roberts's visitors complained that taxi services were charging Native American customers more.
Despite the less than subtle racism, most of Gallup's retailers offered lower prices to customers than the secondary retailers located in the hinterlands and closer to the customer base. Zuñis, for example, often bought gasoline by the drum because pumping stations in and near the Pueblo charged significantly higher prices. In other cases, services simply were not available in the smaller community. Mullarky's photo shop drew a mixed clientele because it offered the only photograph developing service in the area. However, treacherous roads kept such travels to a minimum for many in the area. Only those located the closest to Gallup could make the trip regularly. Others, impeded by the difficulty and time-consuming nature of the trip, came only a few times a year or less.
Some people did not shop in town because most Gallup businesses operated on a cash basis. Buying goods, food and drink, or movie tickets in Gallup required hard money. For the cash strapped residents of the hinterland, the absence of credit reduced their ability to shop in town.
Many Anglo, Hispano, and Mormon farmers and ranchers supplemented their seasonal incomes with short term wage work to improve their cash flow. One Mormon man moved to Gallup to work at a supermarket "to fill in his time while his cows were being fattened by earning some money to live on." Working on the areas roads constituted another form of wage work that was short term. Road work rotated from family to family so that everyone had a chance to earn cash. When the highway department began hiring on longer term contracts in the late 1940s, Romolo Padilla of the Hispano ranching town of San Rafael near Grants responded by writing a letter to the governor. Padilla wanted to ensure that wages were spread around the community. "I am sure," he wrote Governor Mabry, "people in this precinct will be satisfied if they change on the jobs once in a while." Padilla wanted the road crew supervisors to hire all new crews from time to time to spread the wealth around. Temporary wage work could help carry families through cash short periods and paid for the occasional movie or dance.
In addition to road work, wages could be earned by working for the school districts, the post office, or at the munitions center at Fort Wingate outside Gallup. Women frequently supplemented the family income through wage work. In the Ramah schools, women worked as teachers, janitors, and bus drivers. This last occupation was the arena of some conflict. Because the roads were so bad, some folks thought that bus driving was strictly a man's job. "I think a woman's got no business drivin' a school bus," argued an Anglo woman when the current bus diver planned to leave and a woman applied to fill the position. However, the departing bus driver was also a woman. The Anglo woman justified the departing driver's work because she drove "that bus carefully and just like a man, if she gets stuck in the mud and there's nothin' for it but to get down on her belly in the mud... she'll get down there just the same as a man." Further, the Anglo woman claimed the bus driver's husband always drove on the worst days. Despite the rigors of the job, the 250 dollars monthly additional income that bus driving brought in made it worth the muddy bellies in hard times.
It was not unusual for Ramah Saints to move to Gallup for short periods to supplement their farm and ranch incomes during slow periods, when prices were low, or when crops or livestock performed poorly. Saints shuttled back and forth between Ramah and Gallup pursuing wage work in town and then farming and ranching back in Ramah. Ramah folks often lived in the same houses serially in Gallup, one family moving in when another moved out. Lest anyone think their moves were permanent, the Ramah Saints usually continued to wear their ranching clothes in town. Their cowboy boots and hats made them seem "backwoodsy" to the more sophisticated Gallup residents. Likewise, many Hispanos sought wage work. An anthropologist described the town of San Rafael as a city of women and children in the daytime. The men worked outside town, mostly in nearby Grants.
The film industry provided another source of short term wage work. Between 1940 and 1964, Hollywood shot eighteen movies in the area. Included in that total are the nine movies made between 1948 and 1951 alone. Locals found work as extras, guides, wranglers, stock suppliers, and interpreters among other jobs. The same man who supplemented his income by working in the Gallup supermarket earned more cash by leasing horses to the movie industry. A Ramah woman made money by babysitting on the set. The same woman's family income increased even more when her young son got a small speaking part. Young men from Ramah made twenty dollars a day working as stunt doubles and extras reported one anthropologist. A different anthropologist recorded the rate as four dollars a scene plus $1.25 for lunch plus three dollars for transportation expenses. Navajos also earned money playing extras. To this day, within Gallup and across the reservation stories circulate as to what is actually being said by Navajo actors in several of these movies when they improvised dialogue in their native tongue.
Access to wage work did not necessarily translate to economic freedom or mobility. For at least some Navajos, wage work did not result in more cash in their pockets. In the years before stock reduction, Navajos rarely saw or used cash. Instead, they bought items on credit from a local trader. They then settled their accounts once a year through the sale of wool and lambs. Additional emergency income in the form of goods could come from jewelry and craft sales or the pawning of particular items, usually jewelry or blankets. However, some sources of wage work were available to Navajos. Railroad work provided seasonal labor at a time when men were least needed at home. Although men traditionally controlled any wages they earned, as opposed to the female-owned sheep, lambs and wool, railroad work did not necessarily translate into ready spending cash. Some traders worked as labor agents for the railroad and were able to intercept the Navajo laborers paychecks. They would then require that the worker sign his paycheck over to the trader and receive credit at the post in exchange. Thus the wage earner never got any money but ended up collecting his wages in the form of trading post goods.
For Navajos, however, there was at least one event that merited a special trip to Gallup - the Inter-Tribal Ceremonials. The Ceremonials served two purposes for the Navajos who attended. First, the craft halls provided a market where they could sell items. Second, and more important, many Navajos considered the Ceremonials as one of the most important social events of the year. The Ceremonials offered a time to catch up with friends and relatives who lived in different parts of the Reservation or who had left the Reservation in search of wage work. During the Ceremonials, visitors and performers alike held many social dances in the campground set aside for visiting Navajos. Some Navajos also performed as part of the Ceremonial program and received wages for that work as well.
Another attraction for residents in the hinterlands was the availability of alcohol in Gallup. Even before 1953, when Native Americans were granted the right to purchase alcohol openly, Gallup served as a bootlegging center for the reservations. Like the reservations, the Latter-day Saint towns also were dry. Therefore, Mormons who did not observe abstinence from alcohol (known as "jack" Mormons) had to go to Gallup to buy alcohol or procure it from neighbors who did so. Gallup then served as a center for both legal and illegal sales of alcohol.
For Navajos particularly, Gallup was a prime location for drinking. In the 1950s, when off-reservation drinking styles were still patterned on the binge-drinking model, Gallup had a particularly notorious underside. The descriptions of post-war Gallup available usually do not focus on this aspect of the city. However, Leslie Marmon Silko's novel Ceremony offers particularly graphic descriptions of this aspect of Gallup. In her book, set during the 1950s, Silko describes the arroyo that runs through town as inhabited by Native American women who trade sex for money, food, and liquor. Native American men sleep there too, pan-handling during the day for money to buy more fortified wine. (These were the same arroyos where visiting Native Americans went to the bathroom because no public facilities were available to them.) Some of the characters in the novel travel to Gallup to drink in its bars. In one particular passage, Silko describes the main street of Gallup from a Native American perspective:
[He] saw Navajos in torn old jackets, standing outside the bars. There were Zunis and Hopis there too, even a few Lagunas. All of them slouched against the dirty wall of the bars along Highway 66, their eyes staring at the ground as if they had forgotten the sun in the sky; or maybe that was the way they dreamed for wine, looking for somewhere in the mud on the sidewalk. ... These people crouching outside bars like cold flies stuck to the walls.
...From the doorway of a second-hand store he could see feet, toes poking through holes in the socks. Someone sleeping off the night before, but without his boots now, because somebody had taken them to trade for a bottle of cheap wine.
This was a part of Gallup that the Inter-Tribal Ceremonial authorities had no desire for the tourists to see.
For Hispanos and Anglos, especially Hispano and Anglo men, recreation in Gallup included drinking, fighting, and sex. A Hispano man told Munro Edmonson he had come to Gallup "for a piece of tail," although Edmonson did not record the success of the venture. The bars of Gallup were rife with tension. Evon Vogt recorded several racialized bar fights in Gallup. One started when an Anglo told "a dirty Mexican" to get out of his way. Another started when two Anglos from a nearby town said "we're always glad to see the Mexicans leave here." These brawls, actually miniature race riots, show the ethnic tension that lurked below the surface of Gallup. The culture of masculinity that fostered cross-racial community in Grants did not hold sway in Gallup.
Bars, liquor stores, and bootlegging joints form part of the geography of alcohol in Gallup. Navajo alcohol geography includes the riverbed and other sites of consumption and recovery. Navajos called a grassy area behind the Chamber of Commerce Adláanii Da'alchoozhígi (the place where the drinkers graze). This field was a popular spot for sleeping off a drunk. Together these areas comprise a specific geography of alcohol use in Gallup. The specifics of Anglo and Hispano alcohol geographies are harder to track because these groups frequently drank in their own homes. Despite the more visible use of alcohol by Native Americans in Gallup, it is important to remember that Navajo drinking patterns mirrored those of nearby Anglos
Alcohol use contributed important aspects of the stories people told that helped police the boundaries of Gallup's racialized geography. Resident Anglos and Hispanos of Gallup told tales of drunk Indians. These debauched souls, they argued, were incapable of handling their own affairs. They were "bad Indians." Some attributed the drunken condition to the inherent laziness of Indians while others, like Erna Fergusson, insisted that drunkenness was the result of too much contact with Anglos. In either case, the "bad Indian" logic seemed to justify the social control that Gallup residents exercised over Native Americans. Gallup residents discriminated against Navajos and Zuñis using market mechanisms and control of social space. Native Americans paid higher prices and were forced to relieve themselves outdoors. These de facto and de jure restrictions placed on Native Americans in Gallup by Anglos and Hispanos served as methods of organizing the landscape of Gallup in specific ways. Thus, some areas, such as the Rio Puerco, were given solely to Native Americans while others were zones of cultural contact. Still other locales served as the exclusive province of Anglos and Hispanos. Despite the apparently unified front that Hispanos and Anglos presented to Native Americans, some Anglos denied Hispanos entry into the social category of whiteness by vigorously patrolling the boundary with their fists. Other Anglos grudgingly accepted Hispanos claims or even advocated on behalf of Hispanos.
Gallup in the 1950s, then, was a set of overlapping terrains. The geography of tourism intersected and coexisted with the geographies of local trade and of recreational alcohol and sex. These geographies occupied distinct but overlapping spaces within the town. Thus the riverbed in town was simultaneously an obstacle to be crossed, the place to relieve oneself if no restrooms were available, the home of Native American alcoholics who lived in town, as well as a place for visitors to sleep off a drunk. Likewise, the downtown functioned as tourist mecca, entertainment area, retail center, and alcohol soaked landscaped.
Peter Iverson, The Navajo Nation (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1981) pp. 56-9; Robert W. Young, The Navajo Yearbook: A Decade of Progress (Window Rick, Ariz.: Navajo Agency, 1961) pp. 134-42.
David McAllester, Rimrock Field Notes, Sept. 10, 1950; George Mills, Rimrock Field Notes, March 18, 1952; Thomas F. O'Dea, Rimrock Field Notes, Sept. 7, 1950.
Janine Chappat Rosenzweig, Rimrock Field Notes, March 19, 1945; March 23, 1945.
Evon Z. Vogt, Rimrock Field Notes, Oct. 20, 1951.
Janine Chappat Rosenzweig, Rimrock Field Notes, Feb. 4, 1945.
Munro Edmonson, Rimrock Field Notes, Sept 24, 1945.
Marie Roberts Field Notes, Aug. 3 1950.
Janine Chappat Rosensweig, Rimrock Field Notes,March 6, 1945; Fred Strodtbeck, Rimrock Field Notes, June 25, 1949.
Marie Roberts, Rimrock Field Notes, Jan 14, 1951; Feb. 20, 1951; Aug, 25, 1951.
Marie Roberts, Rimrock Field Notes, Oct. 10, 1950.
Marie Roberts, Rimrock Field Notes, Jan 14, 1951.
Marie Roberts, Rimrock Field Notes, Feb. 9, 1951; Feb. 17, 1951.
Marie Roberts, Rimrock Field Notes, Nov. 29 1951.
Marie Roberts, Rimrock Field Notes, Aug. 3, 1950.
Marie Roberts, Rimrock Field Notes, Aug. 1, 1950; Feb 15, 1951.
John M. Roberts, Rimrock Field Notes, Nov. 29, 1951.
Marie Roberts, Rimrock Field Notes, Feb. 16, 1951.
Marie Roberts, Rimrock Field Notes, Oct. 19, (no year).
John M. Roberts, Rimrock Field Notes, Nov. 29, 1951.
Munro Edmonson, Rimrock Field Notes, Oct. 5, 1949; Marie Roberts, Rimrock Field Notes, May 2, 1951.
Marie Roberts, Rimrock Field Notes, Aug. 3, 1950.
Romolo Padilla to Governor Mabry, June 12, 1948, Governor Mabry Papers, Letters Received, Letters Sent, Highway Department, New Mexico State Records and Archives, Santa Fe, New Mexico (Hereafter, NMSRA).
Janine Chappat Rosensweig, Rimrock Field Notes, Jan. 27, 1945; Feb. 8, 1945; Munro Edmonson, Rimrock Field Notes, Nov. 18, 1949.
Marie Roberts, Rimrock Field Notes, Aug. 4, 1950; Nov. 10, 1951.
Francois Bourricard, Rimrock Field Notes, Aug. 13, 1951.
Marie Roberts, Rimrock Field Notes, Aug. 18, 1950.
Thomas F. O'Dea, Rimrock Field Notes, Nov. 9 1950; Margaret Sperry, June 16, 1950.
Although I have no direct knowledge of this, many Navajos and Gallup residents allege that Navajos who were told to speak dialogue in their native language promptly used the opportunity to insult Anglo actors and directors. The movie folks, not knowing Navajo, recorded the dialogue and used it in the movie.
Evon Z. Vogt, Rimrock Field Notes, April 15,1952. The practice was widespread across the reservation as well. 23 of 25 trading posts surveyed in 1949 recruited for the railroad and 24 of 25 handled mail giving the traders access to paychecks and welfare checks. Garrick Bailey and Roberta Glenn Bailey, A History of the Navajos: The Reservation Years (Santa Fe, N.M.: School of American Research Press, 1986), p. 270.
Clyde Kluckhohn and Dorthea Leighton, The Navajo rev.ed. (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Unversity Press, 1974), pp. 126-7. Lucy Wales Kluckhohn notes that the information of the Inter-Tribal Ceremonials was added for the 1962 edition in the "Forward," p. 13.
Marie Roberts, Rimrock Field Notes, Nov. 12, 1950.
Evon Z. Vogt, "Intercultural Relations," in People of Rimrock: A Study of values in Fvie Cultures, ed. Evon Z. Vogt and Ethel M. Albert, pp. 75-6.
Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony (New York: Viking Press, 1977; New York: Penguin, 1986), p.107. Other descriptions of Gallup are on pp. 107-113, 116-117, 161-166
Munro Edmonson, Rimrock Field Notes, October 12, 1949; Evon Z. Vogt, Rimrock Field Notes, September 4, 1952.
Alan Wilson, Navajo Place Names: An Observer's Guide with Audio Cassette (Guilford, Conn: Jeffery Norton, 1995), p. 22.
See Chapter 2.
Erna Fergusson, Our Southwest (New York: Knopf, 1940), pp. 208-9.