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Making and Re-Making Place in the Grants-Gallup Area

This essay explores how different communities in the Grants-Gallup area engaged in landscape construction and place-making, and how those processes changed with the introduction of uranium mining.  

By David Salmanson                  

At the college where I taught a course in Environmental History, I took my class on a walking tour of the campus.  On this particular day, we were accompanied by the director of the campus arboretum.  As she led us around the campus, we came to the front porch of the original building of the campus.  Huge trees and manicured flower beds bordered a walkway down a hill to the train station located at the edge of campus.  The walkway, the director, informed us, had been planned to inspire awe as new and old arrivals departed from the train and hiked up the hill.  The students chuckled at this. To them, the walkway represented an exit from the campus.  It did not inspire awe, but evoked the promise of freedoms and pleasures located in the city at the other end of the train line.

The intention of the campus planners and the contrasting reactions of the students presents an interesting problem. How is it that landscape architects and students could attach such different meanings to the same locale?  Perhaps the walkway once awed students but for whatever reasons, no longer does.  Perhaps it still awes prospective students who visit the campus.  Maybe the trees have grown in such a way as to suggest something different than when they were first planted.  At the root of this difference is a process scholars call the social construction of landscape.[1]   Historian William de Buys articulates the most concise description of this process in his study of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico.  As de Buys points out, "in adapting to the environment, societies change it both purposefully and by accident, and in turn adapt to the changes they have wrought - sometimes by changing the environment still further....  [A society's] culture provides a filter through which people perceive the environment around them and their relation to it."[2]

Western historians have conceived of the relationship between people and the environment in different ways from that described above. Frederick Jackson Turner looked to the environment to see how it had shaped a distinctly American culture.[3]  Walter Prescott Webb and Wallace Stegner suggested aridity was the unifying component of much of the continental United States west of the 98th parallel.[4]  Contemporary authors have taken a similar approach.  Donald Worster focuses on the role of the federal government in managing Western land and resources, especially water resources, as a truly distinctive characteristic of the West.[5]   All these approaches assume a split between nature and culture that has long dominated the field of American history.[6]  While I recognize that environmental constraints shape human activities, it is human cultures that through interpretation turn hydrology, geology, topography, and soil - in short, landforms - into meaningful landscapes.[7]

Contained within the process of landscape construction is a second, related process of place-making.  Following David Harvey, I define place-making as the process whereby specific sites are "constructed and experienced as material ecological artifacts and intricate networks of social relations.  They are the focus of the imaginary, of beliefs, longings, and desires.... They are the intense focus of discursive activity, filled with symbolic and representational meanings."[8]  In other words, places are constituted of several elements.  Places are specific: that is, they are finite and bounded.  Places are also the depository (or symbolic focus) for specific ideas of how the world was, how it is, and how it should be.  As such, place becomes the locus of collective memory.  It allows a community to locate in a specific site the shared knowledge of the past and the hope for the future.[9]  Taken together these two processes - the social construction of landscape and place-making - give communities a strong sense of particularism and rootedness. 

While we have specific examples of these processes, only rarely have scholars sought to explore how different groups perceive the same places and landscapes.[10]  Such an approach reveals the contested nature of landscape and expose how landscapes and places are constructed, mutable, and historically contingent.  My task here, then, is to explore how different communities in the Grants-Gallup area engaged in landscape construction and place-making, and how those processes changed with the introduction of uranium mining.  We begin with the Navajo.

Navajo Landscapes

For the sake of clarity, I divide my discussion of the Navajo landscape into three distinct parts.  However, it is important to realize that clear dividing lines do not exist.  To my knowledge, no Navajo has ever argued that separate landscapes exist.  Dividing the Navajo landscape in this manner, however, enables me to identify some of the more complex issues underlying Navajos' views of the land and allows me to focus on their distinct political, vernacular (or everyday), and sacred aspects.

The Navajo political landscape divides the world along lines drawn on a map.  The map delineates the boundaries of the various Navajo reservations including not only the "big reservation," but also the outlying reservations of Ramah, Cañoncito, and Alamo, as well as the intermixed land ownership of the checkerboard reservation, where many Navajos live.  Such boundaries are neither predetermined nor static.  Spaniards first encountered Navajos in the 16th century, in part, because the Spaniards had been granted political control of present-day New Mexico by decree of the Pope. The political landscape changed again following Mexican independence in 1821.  The political relationship between Navajos and outsiders once again changed markedly when the United States annexed New Mexico after the U.S.-Mexican War, in 1848. 

The modern Navajo reservation, Diné Bináhásdzo, or more commonly Diné Bikéyah (Navajoland), is a political entity first created through an 1868 treaty with the United States.[11]   Since 1868, the political boundaries of the reservation have changed.  Nine executive orders expanded the reservation on all sides between 1878 and 1917.[12]   These expansions came as numerous U.S. presidents responded to pleas by Navajos for more land.  Agents from the Indian Service and other Anglo advocates facilitated these claims, which stemmed from the tremendous growth of the Navajo population and the even more spectacular growth of Navajo herds.  In 1907, the section of the reservation known as "the checkerboard" began to develop its distinctive character.  The checkerboard, so named because of the intermixture of land ownership within its boundaries, lies to the east of the main reservation.  President Theodore Roosevelt removed this land from the public domain in 1907.  From 1907 until 1914, Navajos could file for allotments within the area.  Not all the land was allotted to Navajos, and thereafter non-Navajos could once again file homestead claims in the area.[13]   The result of this process was that different sections of land came under the control of a variety of entities, creating a pattern not unlike a checkerboard.  Navajo pleas for more land during the stock-reduction crisis led to further expansion of the reservation through acts of Congress passed in 1933 and 1934.[14]

Sovereignty within the reservation is divided among the Navajo tribal government, the various states in which reservation lands reside (Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah), and the U.S. federal government.  The political status of particular pieces of land affects a host of legal issues ranging from land inheritance to taxation to criminal jurisdiction.  Of course, Anglos are affected by these boundaries as much as Navajos are.  Anglo tourists may not enter Canyon de Chelly without a Navajo guide, for example.  In my own work, I needed to obtain a permit from the Navajo Nation in order to conduct oral history interviews on the reservation.  Some Anglo ranchers own land completely surrounded by the reservation and thus are dependent on the Navajo Nation to maintain the road network that connects them to the outside world.

Political boundaries matter a great deal.  Shifts in national and reservation boundaries profoundly changed fundamental aspects of Navajo life.  Navajos have had to deal with a variety of outside political bodies, from Spain to Mexico to the United States.[15]   Recent land acquisitions and loss (such as the land exchange to enable coal mining at Black Mesa) continue to redefine the political landscape of the Navajo nation.[16]

The political shape of the landscape is but one point of entry to understanding Navajo country.  A second point of entry is the vernacular landscape.[17] Simply put, the vernacular landscape is demarcated by where Navajos go and shaped by what they do there.  Although the two are connected to each other, the vernacular landscape does not coincide with the political landscape.   During the Spanish colonial period, Navajos herded newly acquired sheep one place in the summer and another in the winter.  As transportation networks developed after the Civil War, Navajos began pursuing wage work on and off the reservation.  As early as the 1860s, some Navajos worked for wages, although wage work became more common only in the 1890s.[18]  By the 1880s, some Navajos began attending school, thus introducing a new element to the vernacular landscape.  In the 1890s, Navajo hunters ranged farther a field from Diné Bikeyah even as hunting diminished in importance and frequency.[19]  The urban areas where many Navajos go today seeking better wage work and education opportunities, such as Albuquerque, Phoenix, Denver, and Los Angeles, form an important part of this landscape. Also included are the mercantile centers that cater to reservation-based Navajos:  Flagstaff, Arizona, and Gallup, New Mexico.  These are places that Navajos have visited to shop, go bank, buy cars, go to the movies, and so on. 

The third landscape might be called the sacred landscape of the Navajo.  This consists of the geography of the creation stories and of Dinétah, the Navajo homeland.  This area is roughly bounded by four sacred mountains: to the east, Blanca Peak; to the south, Mount Taylor; to the west, the San Francisco Peaks; and to the north, Mt. Hesperus.  But more important than the boundaries defined by the mountain tops are the ways specific sites within the sacred landscape are denoted.  These sites might include events that took place during the Navajo emergence, wandering, and settling into Dinétah, and their locations are transmitted to other Navajos through ceremonial repetition of the stories in ceremonials both long (up to nine days) and short (a few minutes in the morning).  Klara Bonsack Kelley and Harris Francis explain that Navajo sacred histories, as told by Navajos, are geographically rooted:

[L]andscapes are strongly associated with these stories.  ...[T]he landscape provides a material anchor for those stories and thereby stores them.  The landscape is a physical link between people of the present and their past.  The landscapes and the stories that go with them depend on each other.  In a sense, the landscape is part of the "text" - usually you can't grasp all the connotations of the story without knowing how the places in the story line up with each other, with other storied places, or with locations of other human events and natural processes like the movements of celestial bodies. ... [P]laces with stories, being part of the land-based life, are integrated into larger, living, landscapes, just as the stories that go with each place are integrated into larger, living narratives.[20]

These landscapes surround Navajos and permeate their everyday lives.  Hearing about, seeing, or moving through sacred landscapes reminds and reinforces the oral traditions associated with those landscapes.  Places within the sacred landscape are areas where living immortal beings, the Holy People, can and do interact with Navajos in both ceremonial contexts and everyday life.  The Holy People, in turn, draw sustenance from Navajo rituals.[21]  By mentioning the places within the sacred landscape, Navajos are simultaneously conveying the stories that go with those places and acknowledging the Holy People who inhabit (if only occasionally) those places. Conversely, Navajos sometimes refer to these places by the name of a key event that took place there, rather than uttering the proper place name, as doing so would be inappropriate outside of a ceremonial context.[22]

Because of the strong connection in Navajo culture to the sacred landscape, many Navajos have braved economic privation to maintain their land base and their lives on the reservation.  Since the beginning of the railroad era, circa 1880, Navajos have mixed herding, craft production, farming, and wage work to earn their livings.[23]  At the center of this matrix of activities were sheep.  Sheep herding provided different methods of subsistence.  On the one hand, sheep and lambs provided meat for consumption.  Lambs could be sold at market as well.  Sheep also produced wool for home and commercial use.  Wool could be sold in bulk, or processed and woven into rugs for sale, pawn, or home use.  The value that Navajos placed on sheep, even as late as the end of World War II, can be found in the many interviews surrounding sheep collected by anthropologists active in Ramah.[24]  For example, one male informant noted that "sheep are very good," while an old woman noted that Navajos "don't want to take the money" on a payday, but would "rather take the sheep."[25]

For many Navajos today, sheep remain essential to the "maintaining of strong bonds among kin and neighbor." Navajos maintain these bonds (in Navajo, called k'é woléii, or in English, close relative greetings, or "all that is implied by greeting one as a close relative") through exchanges of sheep and sheep products. [26]   This k'é ethic refers to "all informal and formal relationship, obligations, and expectations among kin."  Thus one provides mutton to visitors and help to the needy; conversely, visitors expect mutton and the needy expect help.  Parents give children sheep to raise, and the sheep in turn teach children key Navajo values.  Kin use sheep in ceremonial exchanges, and even those Navajos who have shifted their livestock holdings to cattle for market purposes continue to raise some sheep.[27]

Sheep are so important to Navajos that those who have not eaten mutton for awhile have been known to suffer from "mutton hunger" ('ach'á), a condition wherein the sufferer becomes incapable of eating other sorts of meat.  It is sometimes serious enough to require hospitalization and its only known cure is the consumption of mutton.  Sufferers normally appeal to the neighbors and relatives for mutton, who usually provide it.[28]

The interrelationship between herding and landscape can be seen in the way one Navajo woman described the results of the federally organized stock reduction of the 1930s.  In her view, stock reduction caused the condition of the range to deteriorate rather than improve because "with it went the rains."   Speaking similarly in the 1950s, an old man (probably from the Ramah reservation) told visiting students of the relationship between the Holy People and sheep grazing.  He told the students that the Gods were angry and holding the rain back. He lectured, "you white men told us we would have more grass if we let you take our sheep.  But look..., we have less grass now than ever."[29]  For both speakers, it was because the range was not being used that the Holy People withheld both grass and rain.[30]  Sheep were essential for maintaining a healthy landscape. 

Navajos place sheep and the Holy People within their complex kinship networks.  They refer to both sheep and land as mother.  For Navajos, this is more than a metaphorical statement; it reflects intertwining sets of expectations and obligations among relatives.  The mother-child bond is "the most intense, the most diffuse and the most enduring solidarity to be found in Navajo culture."[31]  "Earth Mother," according to Gary Witherspoon, "like all good mothers, cares for, protects, and provides for her children."[32] Thus, Navajos have certain obligations to the land and the sheep, and, in turn, the sheep and land have certain obligations to the Navajo. When the Burnhams chapter Navajos told their children, "Sheep are life.  Those called sheep are your mother," they meant it literally.[33]

Located at the center of Navajo economic and social life, sheep illustrate the underlying unity of the Navajo political, vernacular, and sacred landscapes.  To have sheep, one must have a grazing permit issued by a political unit, the grazing district.  The sheep must be tended daily, and moved from summer to winter pasture.  The sheep form part of the Navajo kinship network and are a vital connection to the Holy People.  Finally, the sheep themselves are essential to Navajo religious activity, which requires the consumption of mutton if not during the ceremonies themselves, then during the various meals before, during, and after "sings" that are attended by guests.

The Mormon Landscape

The Navajo experience of coexisting on multiple landscapes is hardly unique.  If the Navajo landscape system works on multiple levels, so too, does the Mormon landscape.  However, compared to Navajos, there are significant differences in the way that Mormons construct landscape.  There are also some compelling similarities. 

The most basic unit of the Mormon landscape is the settlement.  The term settlement encompasses everything from urban areas, such as Salt Lake City, to small towns, like those of Ramah and Bluewater in the Grants-Gallup area.  The central place of the Mormon village in the landscape is directly attributable to the history of the Latter-day Saint (LDS) church in the United States.  On June 25, 1833, Joseph Smith sent a letter from Kirtland, Ohio, to church leaders in Missouri. The missive contained The City of Zion Plat, a blueprint for future Mormon town construction.  Although never accorded doctrinal force by the church, almost all subsequent Mormon settlement has followed the basic principles of this plat, including a grid street system oriented to true north, wide streets, large lots, and the use of brick and stone.[34]  Over time, additional features have been added.  Richard V. Francaviglia notes that there were ten general characteristics of a Mormon settlement. "Simply stated," he argues, "a town possessing more than five of these will be a Mormon town."  His definition would include Ramah and Bluewater as obviously Mormon settlements.[35]  The distinctiveness of Mormon settlement patterns has been long noted by other scholars as well.[36]

The Mormon preference for village settlement, as opposed to scattered homesteads or other possible forms, is both a product of and aided by the religion's strong communitarian bent.  Dense settlement within a village and fields located outside of it allowed Mormons to engage each other on a daily basis.  This facilitated both worldly and church-based projects.  As an added benefit, the dense settlement gave Mormons the opportunity to monitor each other's behavior to make sure that individuals upheld prohibitions against tobacco use, drinking, and so on.

In order to examine the Mormon landscape more closely, I will focus on the village of Ramah, New Mexico, because of the extensive materials available.  Ramah has a deep anthropological literature as a product of the Harvard "Values Project."[37]  Like many Mormon villages, it also has local historians who have gone to great efforts to collect and publish documents and oral histories of the town.[38]

Ramah is located in a small valley to the west of El Morro National Monument.  The town site has long been noted for the wild onions that grew there. The Navajo name for the town site, Tl'ohchiní, means wild onions.   In order to understand the nature of Mormon landscapes, we can examine the process of how Tl'ohchiní became Ramah.  Or, in other words, how Mormons re-made the Navajo place Tl'ohchiní  into the Mormon place Ramah.

The first step in this transformation was the choice of Ramah as a town site.  Ramah was located near an older L.D.S. church town called Savoia (a corruption of the Spanish word for onions), which had been founded in 1876 as a mission to the Zuñi Indians.  Smallpox hit Savoia hard in 1878, and shortly thereafter fears of an attack from Navajos and Apaches led the regional religious leader (in Mormon terms, the stake President)  to recall the settlers to St. John's, Arizona.  When the scare was over, only one settler returned.[39]  In 1882, settlers tried again and the new settlement became the town of Ramah.  The lone returning settler, Ernst Tietjen, chose the location.  Church authorities directed the initial phase by calling upon specific individuals and families to settle the town.  Like all of the early settlers, brothers William and Henry George of Logan, Utah, were "called" by church authorities to settle in Ramah.  Church authorities released William after less than a year because he was unable to support his family in town, while Henry lasted seven years before moving on to Idaho.  Most of the initial settlers came from Snowflake, Arizona, at the instruction of the bishop there.[40]    Thus the land was peopled with Mormons.

The mere presence of Saints did not make the new town a saintly place.  The Saints, however, quickly set about making sure that their built environment reflected their spiritual ideals.  They constructed a dual-purpose church and school house at the center of town to provide a meeting place.  Its central location mirrored its central role in the lives of children and adults as they met for learning and worship.  During an 1886 visit, church leaders recommended several changes in the Ramah landscape to bring the town into conformity with Mormon teachings and practices.  In response, residents widened the streets of the town and aligned them with the cardinal directions in accordance with the Plat of the City of Zion.  They brought in Lombardy poplars from Utah to give the town "the traditional mark of Mormon settlement."[41]  Properly churched, aligned and prettified, the small Mormon colony was set to thrive. 

The manipulation of landforms did not stop at the border of town.  "From the very beginning," local historian Geraldine Tietjen writes, "the Ramah reservoir was the lifeline for the people of Ramah."[42]  The dam enabled irrigation for agriculture and provided a sense of security against the intermittent rainfall.  Without the dam and the water behind it, the young town site would be doomed.  Residents commenced work on the dam as part of their seasonal cycle of work.  As the dam grew, aided by the labors of all its citizens, the town came to identify itself with its lifeline.

In 1889, the young settlement faced a threat similar to those endured by other Mormon pioneers.  As had Saints in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois before them, the Mormons of Ramah were to be evicted by outsiders. When they settled the town, the Saints of Ramah believed that they were locating on land in the public domain.  However, the town site belonged to a railroad company and subsequently was purchased by the Cebolla Cattle Company, a syndicate of local military officers.  On January 1, 1889, the syndicate gave three months notice to the Saints to evacuate the town site.  To add insult to injury, the officers instructed the residents to leave the improvements they had made.  After this initial threat panicked Ramah residents, the company then offered to sell them land at ten dollars an acre, twenty times the purchase price.  The financially strapped Saints appealed to Salt Lake for help.

Although a loan from the church was forthcoming, and the purchase thus enabled, Salt Lake authorities attached conditions that brought the Ramah residents into even greater conformity with the standard Mormon landscape.  Brigham Young charged the Ramah Saints to form an irrigation and land company that would hold title to the land and water of Ramah.  The company would then sell the land to the settlers and use the profits to improve the dam and increase the water supply.  While land could be purchased by Saints, water would continue to be owned by the company, which distributed shares.  The company made the terms easier on cash-strapped Ramah by allowing residents to labor on the dam and water works in lieu of making cash payments.[43]

What heretofore had been an optional endeavor now became a community imperative.  For most Ramah residents who sought to purchase their lands, work on the dam became the only means to acquire either land or water.  Without land, there was no place to grow crops, and without water from the reservoir, little chance of growing anything successfully.  Ramah residents were thus tied to the irrigation system by their labor and by virtue of the water distribution system.  Although shares in the newly incorporated Ramah Land and Irrigation Company were allegedly open to anyone with the money to purchase them, in practice no outsiders were able to gain access to Ramah water in the early years of the company.[44]

The irrigation network of Ramah watered two different types of fields.  Outside the town, the ditches watered fields for hay, alfalfa, oats, and other such crops.  Inside the town, the ditches watered the gardens and orchards of the large house lots.  Each year the ditches required maintenance.  The saintly landscape was thus reinforced through community labor performed to keep the ditches clear and functioning.  Labor and land bound the small community together in an effort to survive and thrive.[45]

The Saints transformed the place formerly known as Tl'ohchiní into something new.  They physically altered the landforms by communally building a reservoir and irrigation system, thereby creating physical objects that served as reminders of the Mormon values of hard work and cooperation. They created a town plan that conformed with a widely recognized religious style.  They introduced new species of plants that carried specific meanings.  Finally, the townspeople withstood an attempt to evict them, an incident that connected them to the Mormon history of settlement and dispersal. Thus settlers made Ramah into a distinctly Mormon place.

The members of the community of Ramah were not only bound to each other but to a wider Mormon world around them through the church structure and history, situating themselves within a larger Mormon landscape. In its first year, Ramah residents organized themselves into a religious unit called a ward.  The Ramah ward was then assigned to a collection of wards, known as a stake, in this case headquartered in St. John's, Arizona.  Thus for immediate leadership, the Saints turned their gaze westward to Arizona.[46]  The stakes, in turn, received direction from Salt Lake. Even if they never traveled to these places, Ramah residents stay connected to the larger world of the church through these structures.  By 1950, in the wake of improved transportation networks and postwar prosperity, Ramah Saints were regularly visiting the Mormon Temples in Mesa, Arizona, and Salt Lake City and sending their children to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.[47]

From the time of its founding until about 1910, Ramah also looked south towards Mexico.  As the Mormon practice of polygamy came under increased harassment and persecution, many polygamists helped establish Mormon colonies in northern Mexico.  Ramah was an important stop for those traveling back and forth between Utah and these colonies.  After the Mexican Revolution of 1910, many Saints fled Mexico and some of them settled the town of Bluewater, close to Grants.[48]

The Saints of Ramah were thus connected to a wider Mormon landscape.  Locally they transformed the landscape to conform to their ideals.  They also connected themselves to the Mormon world by visiting Mormon temples in Mesa, Arizona, and in Salt Lake City.  They sent their children to Brigham Young University for a Mormon education. Finally, through the re-telling of their own history they identified Ramah as being firmly located within the Mormon tradition.

Hispano Landscape

The Hispano landscape of western New Mexico developed much later than its eastern counterpart on the Rio Grande and its tributaries.  After the reconquista of 1692, the older Hispano villages developed along subsistence lines for generations.[49]  As village populations expanded, residents founded new towns.  Hispanos made attempts at settlement in the Grants-Gallup area during the Spanish and Mexican eras, but the town sites were abandoned due to Navajo raiding.   Once the Navajos were conquered by the United States government, western New Mexico was safe for Hispano settlement.[50]

Like the Mormons, the Hispano settlers in western New Mexico frequently shared common origins and settled on a village plan.  Many of the new colonists were from Seboyeta, somewhat closer to the Rio Grande.  In 1862, Seboyeta colonists founded San Mateo on the slopes of Mount Taylor; in 1865, they founded San Rafael to the south of Grants along present route 53.[51]  Subsequent smaller settlements in the area, including Tinaja and Atarque, were founded by residents of these latter villages and by residents of villages near St. John's, Arizona, which also had been populated by Seboyeta families.  These newest villages helped form geographical connections between the Arizona communities and the Rio Grande Valley.[52]  Unlike central and northern New Mexican communities, little has been written on these western settlements.  Enough sources are available, however, that we can begin to piece together the history of the Hispano landscape in the Grants-Gallup area. 

San Mateo was the only community in the area founded in association with a land grant.  In fact, San Mateo was tied to two land grants, the Bartolomé Fernandez Grant and the Durán y Chavez or San Mateo Springs Grant.  The Spanish crown made the adjacent grants in the 18th century, though neither was settled until the middle of the 19th century, when Román Baca and his half-brother Manuel Chavez claimed their rights as heirs.  Although the two grants had been made to individuals, not to communities, the villagers founded San Mateo within the confines of the San Mateo Springs Grant.  Thus, the fate of the community was tied to the grant.  While many other claims were alienated from Hispano owners during the 1890s, Don Román's claim was confirmed by the Surveyor General in 1883, although litigation clouded the title until 1898.[53]  At the end of the century, the village's future seemed safe.

Like Hispanos in other settlements, many residents of the western New Mexico towns took full advantage of the open range to run livestock.  Unlike many other land grant communities, however, San Mateo and the surrounding communities were, from the outset, concerned almost exclusively with this single industry.  Although local residents maintained subsistence livelihoods, the market for lambs and wool shaped their lives in numerous ways.  Good prices meant the opportunity to buy land or to increase one's own herd.  At the same time, villagers practiced "safety first" agriculture, ensuring a food supply for the next year.  Almost all the residents of San Mateo and nearby villages either worked on shares for a big herder, or leased or purchased surrounding government and railroad land on which to run their cattle and sheep.  Rather than build their houses on the range, however, Hispanos lived in villages.

Like the Mormon residents of Ramah, the Hispanos of San Mateo lived in a village that communally shared and manipulated the landscape.  Like Mormons, Hispanos practiced irrigation farming.  In this case, the local acequia (irrigation ditch) watered gardens and orchards, which provided residents with a source of fruits and vegetables.  In the spring, each adult male entitled to a share of water had to work cleaning the acequias, although some men hired others to take their place.   Abe Peña remembered that "Cleaning the acequias... gave us a continuing sense of community, as we worked toward a common goal."[54]

Unlike the Ramah Saints, the Hispanos established a common grazing area beyond the boundaries of the town.  Here the families of hired hands and share herders could graze milk cows and the occasional head of sheep or cattle that they owned themselves.[55]  Together with chickens and pigs kept in the village, these animals provided the town with a steady meat supply.  Pig butchering could be especially festive.  The butchering family usually invited the village to partake of the meat, while carefully saving the fat to make a year's supply of lard.  Throughout the winter, families took turns butchering, sharing meat, and helping to render the fat so that a meat supply was always available.[56]   Village living encouraged a strong sense of community to develop among the various families who were connected by extended kinship networks.[57]    While each family had private lots, land, water, and animals were shared communally. 

The village landscape of western New Mexico, whether land grant based or not, was dominated by the local church building.  Chapels were dedicated to specific saints whose statue (or santo) resided therein.  Although the church was used for religious services only infrequently - in the smaller villages the chapel be used perhaps once a year to host a mass for the village's Saint's Day - the buildings did not lie dormant.  Villagers used church buildings to host weddings, celebrations, and community meetings as well as funerals.[58]  However, the most important function was as home for the village santo.  The villagers respected and cared for the santo and expected equal care in return.  In San Mateo, people tell the story of a procession held to show Saint Matthew the need for rain to water the village's fields and gardens.  The following day a terrific "hail storm hit the fields and did a lot of damage to the crops.  The villagers once again took him in procession to show him 'La porquiería que hizo' (the mess he made)".[59]

While reminiscent of the Navajos' relationship to land and the Holy People, the Hispano relationship between village and santo was significantly different. While Navajos had definite diagnostic and prescriptive methods to bring the world back into hozho, Hispanos had few such options.  In theory, the patriarch of the village's founding family, usually accorded the title of Don, had sufficient reserves to carry the village through hard times.  The Don also would look the other way at the small amount of village livestock being run on "the commons," to which he held title.  In turn, the villagers took care of the livestock operations, frequently on shares, and provided their votes to the Don.  As Sarah Deutsch notes in her study of northern New Mexico, "the connection between the 'ricos,' commercial sheep farming, and politics was clear."[60]

Villagers, then, counted on a multitude of subsistence strategies to carry them through hard times.   From the outset, one of those strategies was wage work.  Like Hispanos of the Rio Grande Valley and northern New Mexico, the wage work of Hispanos of western New Mexico helped maintain the village economically.  From the 1880s through the 1920s, wage labor in the form of timbering, fence construction, stock raising for cash, and railroad work was local in nature.  Stock raisers who wintered near St. John's, Arizona, traveled the furthest.  The ample wage work allowed local Hispanos to take advantage of a second benefit of the Grants-Gallup area, the availability of public and railroad land for purchase.  Several families from San Mateo and nearby villages were able to secure homesteads after starting out herding on shares.[61]  Hispanos, then, conceived of their villages as part private property and part communal property.  Tying the two together were connections of kinship and obligation as well as a shared Catholicism.

The first transformation that altered life in San Mateo was the change in ownership of the land grant.   The heir to the grant was Amado Chaves.  At some point, Chaves had incorporated the grant and issued shares. Among the shareholders was an Anglo named A. B. McMillen.  Apparently cash strapped, Chaves sold out to McMillen sometime around World War I.[62]  The shift apparently changed little in town, as local Hispanos continued to farm, herd, and work for the new landowner.  McMillen, or El Maxemila, as he was known locally, apparently was little different than Amado Chavez, who, as absentee landlord, was too busy speculating in other land grants himself to pay much attention to San Mateo.  McMillen apparently consolidated the San Mateo Springs Grant with the nearby Bartolomé Fernandez Grant and some intervening land, but left the village alone. 

By the end of World War II, San Mateo was still a functional village.  San Rafael was in a comparable state.  The southernmost villages, Tinaja and Atarque, on the other hand, were in trouble.  Competition for land from Anglos had severely depleted the range, which was more arid than that near San Mateo and San Rafael.  Further, it appears that although the founding families of Tinaja and Atarque lost control later than in San Mateo, the consequences were far worse.  The villages had been smaller and more marginal to begin with and thus could withstand fewer disturbances.  On the eve of the uranium boom, both Tinaja and Atarque were dying slow deaths as villages, as the local people moved to town in search of wage work or relocated to San Rafael or San Mateo where they had kin.[63]  San Rafael and San Mateo, by contrast, seemed ready to survive new challenges.

Competing Landscapes

The Navajo, Mormon, and Hispano landscapes and associated places might appear to be differentiated wholes that exist without relation to each other.  However, they are not.  In practice, these landscapes overlap and coexist with each other.  Therefore, different groups were forced to work out through competition and cooperation how, and to what degree, their landscapes would interact.  Some of the bitterest battles of the Grants-Gallup area have been over land use.   Therefore, we must chronicle some of the strategies groups have engaged to try to sustain their landscape visions.

It is tempting to view the history of the Grants-Gallup area as a series of conquests with one victorious group replacing the next.  In my reading of El Morro National Monument that opened this dissertation, I argued that such a narrative is inappropriate when applied to western New Mexico.  I do not wish to imply, though, that conquest did not happen.  The wars between the Spanish and the Navajos, the Mexicans and the U.S., the U.S. and the Navajos cost a great many lives and contained more than enough brutality.  The tragic episode of the Navajos' Long Walk to Bosque Redondo, their miserable internment there, and their return home were also events that led directly and indirectly to many Navajo deaths.  However, the task at hand is not to recount such events, but rather what happened in their wake.  We can start by examining the role of place names in the Grants-Gallup area.  As Loring Danforth reminds us, place names "are extremely powerful symbols of identity and... the process of naming is inextricably linked with the process of identity formation."[64]

Stand almost anywhere west of Grants and east of the Continental Divide on Interstate 40 and look east.  You will see dead ahead of you Mount Taylor and, in front of it, the flat-topped Haystack Butte.  These two landforms dominate the field of view.  Yet, the history of their names reveals something of both the repeated conquests and the persistence of the conquered.  The Navajo, for example, have several names for Mt. Taylor depending on the usage.  One that is appropriate for this context is Tsoodzil, which does not translate into English.[65]  When the Spanish arrived, they named the range that Mount Taylor is in, the San Mateos, after St. Matthew the Evangelist.[66]  In 1848, the United States took possession of the territory that now contains Mount Taylor as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo. In 1849, Lieutenant James Simpson surveyed what is now western New Mexico and assigned the 11,301 foot peak the name Mount Taylor in honor of President Zachary Taylor, the U.S. hero of the Mexican-American War. 

The substituting of one place name for another, or the eradication of place names altogether, is an act of conquest.[67]  Yet political conquest, and all that it entailed, was a limited act in western New Mexico.  Almost twenty years after U.S. annexation, Hispanos founded a town on the slopes of Mount Taylor known as San Mateo; while the mountain's name changed, the range is still known as the San Mateos.  The Hispano claim to the land via manipulation of the landscape remained strong.  Although Navajos have never officially published a map that lays out their geography explicitly, the place names live on in everyday speech and ritual.  Occasionally, Navajo geography has made its appearance on maps as well.  The map prepared for their Indian Claims Commission land case in the 1960s and 70s contains many Navajo place names.[68]  The persistence of these names and their use is an indicator of the persistence, presence, and relevance of Navajos and Hispanos in this region.

Mormons also used naming to claim the territory.  Near Mount Taylor, slightly to the east, is the landform known as Haystack Butte. The rectangular Haystack has steep angular sides and a narrow top.  To my eastern eyes, the name of the landform was always a puzzle.  The haystacks that I had seen, in person and in art, were gentle domes.  However, once I saw haystacks in Bluewater and Ramah, the name made sense.  Haystack Butte, from a distance, is a dead ringer for a Mormon haystack.  The name, once a mystery to me, now made perfect sense. 

While we don't know the impact of this naming on locals, we can hazard some guesses.  For Mormons, Haystack Butte became a physical reminder of their belonging to the landscape.  Haystack functioned as a place marker for the "Great Basin Kingdom."  For other locals, the prominent butte may have served as a reminder of the Mormon presence.  Along with the tall poplar trees and distinctive architecture, the butte may have bred admiration, resentment, or both towards the Latter-Day Saints.[69]

Arrival of the Cold War Landscape

In her essay, "Landscapes of the Cold War," María Montoya identifies several major aspects of the Cold War landscape.  Of those she identifies, two concern this project directly:  the direct use of land by corporations and government agencies that make up the military-industrial complex, and the primary and secondary effects of resource development.[70]  These two elements, the first a product of the nuclear and conventional arms race, the second a quest to break U.S. dependence on foreign oil, are clearly evident in the Grants-Gallup area.  The arms race and the associated resource development created a new form of landscape in the Grants-Gallup area, the Cold War landscape.  Beginning with Paddy Martinez's discovery of uranium at Haystack Mesa in 1950, the federal government, represented locally by the Atomic Energy Commission, and acting in conjunction with the various uranium companies that contracted with it to provide uranium ore, began reshaping the Grants-Gallup area along the lines of the Cold War landscape.  

Once uranium was discovered, the first task facing the companies that sought to exploit and profit from it was locating the ore and obtaining the rights to mine it.  This process required companies to establish ownership rights in a locale where clear land titles were the exception and not the norm.  A 1957 map of the Ambrosia Lake mining district, north of Grants documents the process.[71]   The map itself is arranged on the grid of the township and range system, which gives the map a semblance of order.  However, the key shows eight possible classes of ownership, including Indian Allotment land, private land, Santa Fe Railroad land, New Mexico State land, and federal public land.  Further, several sections are divided internally.  While the gridding is typical of the 19th-century rationalization of space, two sections of the map stand out.  On the eastern part of the map are two un-gridded areas:  the northern area is the Bartolomé Fernandez Grant; the southern area is the San Mateo Springs Grant.  Both grants stand outside the federal government's attempts to rationalize the landscape in the twentieth century.  In addition, the map reveals that almost every section has mineral rights claimed by a company intent on mining uranium and selling it to the Atomic Energy Commission for the purpose of making atomic weapons.  While mining claims and jumbled property rights should come as no surprise to those familiar with mining booms, what was different and distinctive about this boom was the role the federal government played in creating it in the first place.  Because uranium discovered between 1948 and 1957 had a guaranteed buyer in the Atomic Energy Commission, the uranium boom was the only federally sponsored mining rush.  Further, the use of uranium in the production of atomic weapons made such a boom the product of a national defense project.  The role of the federal government as end buyer of the product and as supposed negotiator or supervisor of leases on various federal, reservation, and allotment lands implies a conflict of interest not easily resolved.

Just as they complicated questions of property rights, uranium companies in collusion with the federal government altered the built environment in the Grants-Gallup area.  Companies sunk mine shafts.  Mines produced tailings piles.  Outbuildings housed machinery, ventilation equipment, and offices.  Trailer parks sprung up to house workers.  Roads and railroad tracks were built to tie these operations together and to connect them with the larger world of the uranium industry.  The federal government gave permission for the construction of three refining mills to process ore, and these mills were connected by road to the mines and by rail to enrichment plants at Hanford, Washington, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee.[72]

 The transformation of the Grants-Gallup area was part of a larger restructuring of the American West in this time period.[73]  Migration occurred both within the region and outside it. Hispanos relocated to Denver to work at Rocky Flats, for example.[74]  Further north on the Wyoming plains, a veritable invasion of technical personnel came to construct, install, and staff the ICBM missiles and silos of the Air Force's 90th Strategic Missile Wing.[75]  In New Mexico, the federal government condemned private land to build Los Alamos and the White Sands missile range, displacing families in the process.[76]  Within the Grants-Gallup area, uranium companies improved existing roads and built new ones to get workers to and from mines in previously isolated areas such as Ambrosia Lake, Smith Lake, Crownpoint, and Churchrock.[77]  They also appropriated water from local watersheds, decreasing the amount of water available for other pursuits such as ranching and farming. Taken together, resource development and deployment combined to make a Cold War West of which the Grants-Gallup area was merely a part.

Residents of the area, however, did not necessarily see themselves as cogs in a Cold War machine or as victims of a Cold War state.  George Rowley was a Mormon farmer in Bluewater whose life was profoundly reshaped by the Cold War.  Not that Rowley was unused to upheaval.  He had been born in a polygamous Mormon colony in Mexico and moved with his family to Bluewater during the Mexican Revolution. Prior to the uranium era, he had farmed his fields fairly successfully with little opportunity or inclination to engage in wage work.  However, in 1953, the fields he rented were converted to a subdivision to house workers in the uranium mining and milling industries.  Without fields, he "went to work at the Anaconda Mill which was just opening... and [I was] only going to stay until we could get back into farming.  I stayed for 17 years."[78]

It is tempting to read George Rowley's story as one of the dominance of the industrial order co-opting rural America.  However, before rushing to judgment, we need to look more closely Rowley's case.  Not long after he went to work, he put in crops closer to his house on his own land and harvested them after work.[79]  Like other Mormon men of the area, he took up the high-paying wage work of the uranium industry, but tried to farm his own land as well.[80]   Rowley was part of a larger trend. In Bluewater, the demand for Navajo migrant farm laborers fell from the 300 requested in 1955 to 36 in 1963. Farm operators faced competition for both labor and water rights from uranium mining.  Unable to offer competitive wages or pay new higher market rates for water, growers had to scale back.  However, in 1964, the uranium market entered a slump and agricultural activity picked up again.[81]

 What possessed George Rowley and his fellow Saints to continue pursuing agriculture in the face of resource development sanctioned by the federal government and financed by huge companies that could easily outbid them for water and labor?  Why would folks plant crops when they would have to harvest the crops themselves after already putting in a long day's work?  The answer is that the Saints of Bluewater never considered uranium mining or its related activities, such as milling, a legitimate use of the landscape.  Earlier, we discovered the deep historical antipathy of Mormons towards mining as an occupation.  Further, Evon Z. Vogt describes wage work as a "last resort" for Mormons, who preferred being "primary-productive" persons, such as ranchers and farmers, over all other occupations.  For Mormons, working the land was preferable even to running a small business or to teaching, both of which ranked ahead of wage work in desirability.[82]

The Mormon towns, by their very construction and layout, with garden plots, irrigation ditches, and handmade dams, were constant reminders that agriculture was the best and most suitable occupation.  The landscape that Mormons so painstakingly crafted demanded nothing less.  It is the ultimate irony, of course, that Haystack Mesa, the very site that proclaimed Mormon agricultural dominance in the area, was the site of the first uranium discovery that led to the first major attack on that dominance. 

Hispanos, too, took advantage of the boom.  Salvador Milan, born in Mexico but the son of Spaniards, had married into the land-holding elite family of San Rafael, the Mirabals.  Through his wife, he inherited a large amount of land outside Grants that he rented to Mormon farmers like George Rowley.  However, as noted, Milan developed the property into the town of Milan, where many uranium miners lived.   His in-laws, five families in all, similarly developed properties or sold them for cash, including the "ice-caves" tourist complex, the town site of Tinaja, the current site of the hospital in Grants, and other valuable land in San Rafael and surrounding areas.  Most of the land is allegedly still under the family's control.[83]

 For the residents of San Mateo, the Cold War was less than kind.  Although it appeared that the mines in the nearby Ambrosia Lake District and a projected mine at San Mateo itself would help the village survive, the boom did not materialize as planned.  Instead, residents were more firmly drawn into the commercial consumer culture that before this time had largely bypassed them.  The 1941 property tax records for San Mateo, before uranium mining started, show ten families with land and livestock holdings, while an additional eighteen families had livestock holdings only.  These latter families may have grazed their stock on public land, or run stock on shares on the Fernandez and San Mateo Springs Grants.  By 1961, seven San Mateo families had both land and livestock, and only two were running livestock on someone else's land, public or private.[84]  The decline in distribution of livestock, especially among those without land, indicates the shift from subsistence to market production at the local level that took place during the Cold War era. 

Although the village is hanging on, much of the rhythm of life has changed, perhaps permanently.  As Abe Peña commented about San Mateo in the 1990s, "there are fewer and fewer [matanzas or pig butchering], as the lifestyle of the village is changing.  In most of the households, both husband and wife are employed; the supermarket is not far away, and it's a lot more convenient in today's busy and hurried world, where sharing with others has been almost forgotten."[85]  The demise of "sharing," as Peña terms it, is a product of the intrusion of the cash economy into San Mateo.  Barter and exchange are now less vital to each villager's survival and to the survival of the village as a whole.  The supermarket that is allegedly so close is a good half-hour away under the best conditions of travel.  It must be noted, however, that many San Mateo residents in the 1990s were working in Grants, where the supermarket is located.   

The Navajo response to the Cold War invasion was more complex, but easier to document than the Mormon response.  Although Navajos accepted or even openly embraced uranium mining, many Eastern Agency Navajos became disillusioned with the industry and actively protested against it.  What is especially interesting about this shift is that both sides of the debate rationalized their rhetoric with appeals to the traditional Navajo landscape.

 Navajos like Tom Ration recognized the value of uranium ore.  "This is where the Navajos get their money," he told an interviewer.  But Ration did not see uranium development as part of a geologic accident, or as a stroke of good luck.   Rather, he attributed the resource development to the Holy People taking care of the Navajos.   He highlighted the reciprocal nature of the relationship between Navajos and a living landscape when he argued that "We love our lands says quite a few Navajos..., what [a] great mother it was to start with."[86]   Despite the grammatical oddities of this statement, which result from Ration translating himself from Navajo into the rather distinctive English dialect that so many older Navajos speak, Ration's meaning can be made clear.  Navajos love the land in an active way through daily, seasonal, and sporadic ritual.  As a result of that care, Navajos receive wealth through the intervention of Nature (the Holy People). 

Ration's argument is neither unique nor isolated.  Martin Begay spoke to a chapter meeting in the checkerboard in 1969, about a year after Ration's comments, and received approval for much the same sentiments. "So I think that we Navajo people are doing pretty good," he told his chapter,  "and at the same time the nature, the almighty, has given us oil wells, uranium lands and timber ."[87]  Although he used the term Almighty,  by which one might construe some Christian overtones in Begay's speech, the basic meaning is the same.  Navajo people do good, thus nature provides wealth.  While that wealth might once have been sheep, by the late 1960s it took the form of resources: oil, uranium, and timber.

Even as resource development pulled young men and women away from traditional activities during the 1960s, Navajos continued to keep some sheep.  Although not every nuclear family owned sheep, at least some members of broader kinship networks were likely to own and care for livestock.  Kinship reciprocity in the form of the k'e ethic, or, as Navajos say in English, "helping out," allowed younger adult Navajos to pursue wage work but still have access to sheep for special occasions.  Even as new forms of wage labor and economic relationships developed, Navajos were able to maintain connections to their established landscape.[88]

However, by the 1980s, many Navajo were turning against uranium, as conditions had changed substantially.  As older uranium miners succumbed to lung cancer, concern developed on the reservation.  In 1979, the largest nuclear spill in the history of the United States took place at Churchrock, New Mexico, on the checkerboard just east of Gallup and north of I-40.  The tailings dam of the United Nuclear Churchrock mill gave way, dumping 100 million gallons of radioactive water into the Rio Puerco.  The spill contaminated the drinking supply of thousands of Navajos, and eventually reached as far as Phoenix, Arizona.  Over 1,000 sheep and other livestock died in the aftermath.[89]  Although assured by health officials that surviving sheep were safe for consumption, herders downstream from the accident still had trouble finding buyers for their stock three years after the accident.[90]

Because of the Churchrock accident, and perhaps as the long term effects of mining became known, in 1979, some Navajos turned against uranium mining.  In making their case, they used a logic similar to that of Ration and Begay, but to argue against uranium mining instead of supporting it.  Matters further came to a head when Gulf negotiated a lease to begin uranium mining on the slopes of Mt. Taylor or Tsoodzil.  As part of the preparations for a massive demonstration against the Gulf lease in 1979, the promotional literature of the organizing group, the American Indian Environmental Council (whose coordinating council was two-thirds Navajo), pointed out the negative consequences of mining.   "Such uranium activity," the group warned, "is considered to be an act of violence to our sacred Mother Earth."[91]  By allowing mining, Navajos invited the retribution of the Holy People, and thus courted disaster.  For Navajos involved in the movement, Mother Earth was not a metaphor, but an actual mother who fulfilled her kinship obligations and in turn expected obligations towards her to be fulfilled.  In the view of the anti-Gulf activists, uranium mining directly threatened the kinship relationship with Mother Earth.  Uranium mining on Mount Taylor added extra danger because of the presence of Holy People in the site.


The landforms in the Grants-Gallup area were constructed in different ways by different communities into distinct and competing landscapes and places.  Faced with similar environmental constraints, the various cultures responded with different strategies.  Each strategy, in turn, led to new choices and possibilities.  Hispanos, for example, had to decide whether or not to buy or lease land, while Mormons were faced with tough decisions on growing crops for market or home consumption.  The landscapes and places created by these groups overlapped one another and coexisted.  However, as material conditions changed, so too did the constructions of landscape.  Some Navajos, for example, welcomed uranium mining by placing resource development into a system of landscape that made uranium seem like just another way that the Holy People provided for them.  However, this construction of landscape was reversed as the consequences of uranium mining became known.  Therefore, some Navajos turned against uranium development using much the same logic that other Navajos used to support mining.

Understanding these different constructions of landscape is extremely important when we begin to examine events in Gallup from the 1950s until the kidnapping of the Gallup mayor in 1973.  As we shall see, the different social meanings accorded to Gallup by Anglos, Hispanos, and Navajos led to violent conflict.    

[1]There is a small but growing literature on the cultural construction of landscape.  For highlights Ann Farrar Hyde, "Cultural Filters:  The Significance of Perception in the History of the American West,"  Western Historical Quarterly 24 (August 1993):  pp. 351-74; Martha Sandweiss, "Frontier Views and Reviews:  Western Art and Western History," in Under an Open Sky:  Rethinking America's Western Past, ed. William Cronon, George Miles, and Jay Gitlin (New York:  Norton, 1992); Thomas Greider and Lorraine Garkovich, "Landscapes:  The Social Construction of Nature and the Environment,"  Rural Sociology 59  (Spring 1994):  pp. 1-24; and Klara Bonsack Kelly and Harris Francis, Navajo Sacred Places (Bloomington:  Indiana University Press, 1994).

[2]William de Buys, Enchantment and Exploitation: The Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range (Albuquerque:  University of New Mexico Press, 1985), p. 9.

[3]Frederick Jackson Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," in History, Frontier, Section:  Three Essays by Frederick Jackson Turner (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1993).

[4]Walter Prescott Webb, The Great Plains, (1931; reprint, Lincoln:  University of Nebraska Press, 1981).  Wallace Stegner's works have consistently maintained this theme, see for example, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian:  John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West  (1953; reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982)

[5]Donald Worster, The Dust Bowl:  The Southern Plains in the 1930s (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1979); and Rivers of Empire:  Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West (New York:  Pantheon books, 1985).  The latter book argues that the American West is essentially a state-centered society organized around the distribution of water, which he terms "hydraulic society." 

[6]The most recent historiography of Western history as a field is Kerwin Klein, Frontiers of the Historical Imagination:  Narrating the European Conquest of Native America, 1890-1990 (Berkeley:  University of California Press, 1997).  In addition to Turner and Worster, some other cannonical books that assume a split between nature and culture are Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden:  Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1964); and Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land:  The American West as Symbol and Myth  (1950; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970).

[7]The term "landscape" is amorphous and means different things to different people.  The definition that most closely approaches mine is that of J. B. Jackson: "a composition of man-made or man-modified spaces to serve as infrastructure or background for our collective existence; and if background seems inappropriately modest we should remember that in our modern use of the word it means that which underscores not only our identity and presence but also our history."  From his "The Word Itself," in Discovering the Vernacular Landscape (New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 1984), p. 9.  However, we must remember that "our identity and presence," and "our history" are neither monolithic entities nor stable categories and depend on local, national, and international contexts. 

[8]David Harvey, Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference (Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell, 1996), p.316.  The quote succinctly summarizes most of the argument of Chapter 11, "From Space to Place and Back Again," pp.291-326.

[9]Harvey, pp. 304-306

[10]Keith Basso, Wisdom Sits in Places  (Albuquerque:  University of New Mexico Press, 1996); William Cronon, "The Trouble with Wilderness," in Uncommon Ground:  Rethinking the Human Place in Nature,  ed. William Cronon (New York:  Norton, 1995),  p. 69-90.  Multi-cultural studies that do explore how different communities interpret the same landforms differently include Katherine G. Morrissey, Mental Territories:  Mapping the Inland Empire (Ithaca, N.Y.:  Cornell University Press, 1997), and de Buys, Enchantment and Exploitation.

[11]Treaty Between the United States of America and the Navajo Tribe of Indians, with a Record of the Discussions that led to its Signing (Las Vegas, Nev.: KC Publications, 1968).

[12]Lawrence C. Kelly, The Navajo Indians and Federal Indian Policy, 1900-1935 (Tuscon:  University of Arizona Press, 1968), pp. 18-9.

[13]Garrick Bailey and Roberta Glenn Bailey, A History of the Navajos:  The Reservation Years  (Santa Fe, N.M.:  School for American Research Press, 1986), pp. 77-80, 112-117.

[14]Bailey and Bailey, 193-6.

[15]For a comparison of their attempted colonization techniques, see Edward Spicer, Cycles of Conquest:  The Impact of Spain, Mexico, and The United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1533-1960 (Tucson:  University of Arizona Press, 1962).

[16]Compare this political landscape to the processes of "boundary setting" and "state forming" described by William Cronon, George Miles, and Jay Gitlin in their essay "Becoming West:  Toward a New Meaning for Western history," in  Under and Open Sky:  Rethinking America's Western Past, ed. Cronon et al. (New York: Norton, 1992), pp. 15-6 and passim.  While Cronon et. al. see such processes ending once the shift from frontier to region is completed, the Navajo case clearly argues against such an interpretation.  A more dialectical historical account, such as I am attempting, ought to avoid a fixed approach to these processes and reveal them to be sensitive to change and contingency.  As I shall make clear in the rest of this chapter, sequential schemas of "boundary setting," "land taking," "self shaping," etc., are insufficient for understanding Mormon, Hispano, and Navajo attitudes and responses to resource development.

[17]My use of the term "vernacular" is taken from John Brinckerhoff Jackson, "Vernacular," in Discovering the Vernacular Landscape (New Haven, Conn:  Yale University Press, 1984), as well as the other essays in the volume.

[18]Bailey and Bailey, pp. 155-160.

[19]Bailey and Bailey, pp. 145-7.

[20] Kelley and Francis, p. 2.

[21]Kelley and Francis, p. 1.

[22]Kelley and Francis, p. 42.  They authors urge readers to compare this to the use of place names by the Western Apache as described by Keith Basso most recently in Wisdom Sits in Places

[23]Klara B. Kelley and Peter M. Whitely, Navajoland:  Family and Settlement and Land Use (Tsalie, Ariz:  Navajo Community College Press, 1989) especially chapters 5, 6, and 7. 

[24]Of course, sheep continue to be important.  Many families still keep a few head of sheep around for special occasions.

[25]Richard Hobson, "Navaho Acquisitive Values" Reports of the Rimrock Project Values Series no. 5, Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, vol. 42, no. 3. (1954): p. 27.

[26]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. 25.  This study (a summary of four previous reports) focuses on Navajo priorities in the face of resource development.  The study focuses on the Burnhams chapter, which is outside of the Eastern Agency, and thus beyond the typical geographic range of this study.  However, I believe the findings are applicable to this work because: Burnahms is adjacent to the Eastern Agency;  because like Eastern Agency chapters, Burnhams is located on the Chaco Plateau in New Mexico; because it is relatively isolated from transportation networks and was faced with similar issues.  Although there are wide regional variations among Navajo communities, the Burnhams community appears to be comparable to the checkerboard for my purposes here.

[27]Schoepfle et. al., p. 25-9. 

[28]Schoepfle et. al., p. 26-7.

[29] Robert Manson Bunker and John Adair, The First Look at Strangers (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1959), p.84.  Although I cannot say for sure the old man was from the Ramah reservation, he is identified as being from a satellite reservation, Adair had long standing connections to Ramah, and several pictures in the text look like the Ramah reservation.

[30]Kelley and Francis, p. 33.

[31]Gary Witherspoon, Navajo Kinship and Marriage (Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1975), p. 15.

[32]Witherspoon, p. 68.

34Richard White, The Roots of Dependency:  Subsistence, Environment and Social Change among the Choctaws, Pawnees, and Navajos (Lincoln:  University of Nebraska Press, 1988), pp. 236-237; Schoepfle et. al., p. 30.

[34]Richard H. Jackson, "The City of Zion Plat," in Historical Atlas of Mormonism, ed. S. Kent Brown, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard H. Jackson (New York:  Simon and Schuster, 1994), p. 44; Lowry Nelson, The Mormon Village:  A Pattern and Technique of Land Settlement  (Salt Lake City:  University of Utah Press, 1952),  pp. 34-36.

[35]The ten factors that Francaviglia identifies are: wide streets, roadside irrigation ditches, barns and granaries in town, open landscape around town, the central hall house, high percentage of brick homes, the hay derrick, the Mormon fence, and the L.D.S. chapel.  Richard B. Francaviglia, The Mormon Landscape:  Existence, Creation, and Perception of a Unique Image in the American West (New York:  AMS Press, 1978), pp. 68-69. On my last visits to the towns in 1997, Ramah possessed at least six of the characteristics and Bluewater at least five.  Both had wide streets, roadside ditches, barns and granaries in town, open landscape outside town, and an L.D.S. chapel.  There was a hay derrick in Ramah.

[36]On Mormon towns see, Nelson, The Mormon Village, and his dissertation, "The Mormon Village:  A Study in Social Origins," (Ph.D. diss.  University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1929).  Footnotes refer to the book unless otherwise noted.  

[37]The "Values Project" was organized by the Laboratory of Human Relations at Harvard University.  It sent dozens of researchers into the area around El Morro National Monument to do a comparative study of the Texans, Mormons, Hispanos, Navajos, and Zuñis who lived there. 

[38]Local historian Gary Tietjen included Ramah in two of his studies on Mormons in New Mexico, Encounters with the Frontier (n.p., n.d.) and Mormon Pioneers in New Mexico:  A History of Ramah, Fruitland, Luna, Beulah, Bluewater, Virden, and Carson (Los Alamos, N.M.:  n.p., 1980).  Most recently, Geraldine "Gerry" Tietjen published the very useful, Ramah:  A Documentary History 1930-1995 (Bountiful, Utah:  Family History Publishers, 1995). 

[39]Gary Tietjen, Mormon Pioneers, pp.36-37.

[40]Gary Tietjen, Mormon Pioneers, pp. 42-43.  On the church hierarchy's role in directing colonization in Arizona and New Mexico, see Charles S. Peterson, Take Up Your Mission: Mormon Colonizing Along the Little Colorado River (Tucson:  University of Arizona Press, 1973. On colonization more generally, see Leonard Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom.

[41]Gary Tietjen, Encounter with the Frontier, p.32

[42]Gerry Tietjen, p.103.

[43]See Appendix 3 in Gerry Tietjen, pp. 315-316.

[44]Gerry Tietjen, p.109.

[45]Communal labor is a strong ideal in LDS rhetoric and practice dating back to the days of the United Order.  Edward J. Allen, The Second United Order Among the Mormons (New York:  Columbia University Press, 1936) and Leonard J. Arrington, Feramorz Y. Fox, and Dean L. May, Building the City of God:  Community and Cooperation among the Mormons, 2nd ed. (Chicago:  University of Illinois Press, 1992).

[46]Gerry Tietjen, pp. 163-65.  In 1975, a new stake was formed in Gallup that included Ramah and Grants.

[47]Evon Z. Vogt, "Geographical and Cultural Setting," in People of Rimrock:  A Study of Values in Five Cultures,  ed. Vogt and Albert (Cambridge, Mass:  Atheneum, 1966), p. 44.

[48]Gary Tietjen, Encounters with the Frontier, pp. 77-82.

[49]For the history of Hispano settlement, see Ramon Gutiérrez, When Jesus Came the Corn Mothers Went Away:  Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500-1846  (Stanford, Calif.:  Stanford University Press, 1991); Richard L. Nostrand, The Hispano Homeland (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992); du Buys, Enchantment and Exploitation;  Leonard E. Olen, The Role of the Land Grant in the Social Organization and Social Processes of a Spanish-American Village in New Mexico (Albuquerque:  Calvin Horn, 1970);  John Van Ness, Hispanos in Northern New Mexico:  The Development of Corporate Community and Multicommunity (New York:  AMS Press, 1991); Van Ness, Cañones:  Values, Crisis, and Survival in a Northern New Mexico Village (Albuquerque:  University of New Mexico Press, 1981); and Hispanic Villages of Northern New Mexico.  A Reprint of Volume II of the 1935 Tewa Basin Study, with Supplementary Materials ed. Marta Weigle (Santa Fe, N.M.:  Lightning Tree, 1975).  Malcolm Ebright, one of the foremost litigators of land grant law today, wrote The Tierra Amarilla Grant:  A History of Chicanery (Santa Fe, N.M.: Center for Land Grant Studies, 1980) which provides legal background and lends detail to the land alienation process.

[50]Nostrand, pp. 88-92.

[51]Nostrand, p. 88; Peña p. 5.

[52]John L. Landgraf, "Land Use in the Ramah Area of New Mexico:  An Anthropological Approach to Areal Study,"  Reports of the Ramah Project no. 5, Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University  42 no. 1,  (1954). p.33; Nostrand, p. 91.

[53]Peña, p. 22

[54]Peña, p. 204. 

[55]Peña, p. 205.

[56]Peña, p. 82

[57]Peña, p. 25-7, 30-3, 59-61, 66-69, and passim; Deutsch, p. 49.

[58]Landgraf,  p. 81.

[59]Peña, p. 20.

[60]Deutsch, p. 29.  However, a comparison of Deutsch's study of these processes in northern New Mexico with my findings in western New Mexico yields differences.  While Hispano men from northern New Mexico sought wage work far from home in mining and as unskilled field hands, the smaller populations of western New Mexico suffered less displacement.  

[61]Peña, pp. 32-4.  It is unclear whether the apparent social mobility of San Mateo and surrounding villages is a product of the peculiarities of the local environment, especially the availability of land, or a continuation of a pattern of economic advancement noted for an earlier period in northern New Mexico by Deutsch.  She notes, "Status differences did exist, but the differences were greatest between generations.  Sons, even sons of relatively of the well-to-do, hired out as shepherds, goatherds, or farm laborers, to their own fathers or to other farmers and stockholders to earn the resources to establish their own households or launch their own careers." Deutsch, p. 15.

[62]Peña, p. 23. 

[63]Landgraf, p. 35.  The nearby "Texan" town of Fence Lake was undergoing similar pressures and also was largely depopulated after World War II.  Tinaja was apparently the smallest village and disappeared the most quickly.  Atarque held on until the villagers lost their school and the highway bypassed them.  Fence Lake, despite winning the battle with Atarque for the highway, is little more than a gas station and repair shop today.  

[64]Loring M. Danforth, The Macedonian Conflict:  Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1995), p. 154. 

[65]Alan Wilson, with Gene Denison, Navajo Place Names: An Observer's Guide (Guilford, Conn:  Jeffery Norton, 1995) speculates that the name is a corruption of what might once have been "tongue mountain," p.38.

[66]Abe Peña, Memories of Cíbola (Albuquerque, N.M.:  University of New Mexico Press, 1997) p. 163.

[67]J.B. Harley, "New England Cartography and the Native Americans," in American Beginnings: Exploration, Culture, and Cartography in the Land of Norumbega, ed Baker, Churchill, Konrad, and Prins (Lincoln:  University of Nebraska Press,), pp. 296-301.

[68]A reproduction of this map be found in Navajo Indians III in the American Indian Ethnohistory:  Indians of the Southwest, ed. David Agee Horr (New York:  Garland, 1974).  The series reprints most of the important documents from all the Indian Claims Commission cases.

[69]Mormons historically have drawn strong reactions from non-believers. In the twentieth century, admirers included, among others, Wallace Stegner.  More often than not, the reaction from "gentiles" is to exoticize church members.  Although a non-Mormon, I have been bombarded with questions that concentrate on the alleged power of the Church, its practices involving baptism of the dead, and, most typically, "Jesus-jumpers," the distinctive undergarments worn by Mormon men and women which are more properly known as garments.  In the Grants-Gallup area, both responses can be seen.  Evon Z. Vogt, the Harvard anthropologist, grew up near Ramah and expressed his admiration for the church while George Dannenbaum, the one time mayor of Grants, derisively referred to the church as "the L.S.D." George Dannenbaum interview with the author.

[70]María Montoya, "Landscapes of the Cold War West," in The Cold War West ed. Kevin J. Fernlund, (Albuquerque:  University of New Mexico Press, 2000), p. 4 (This and subsequent page cites are from the manuscript copy in the author's possession.)

[71]Copy in the possession of the author.  The original is in the NMSRA but was not cataloged at the time I did my research. 

[72]While both road and rail links are still visible from the highway as you pass the mill site at Bluewater, you can't see the mill.  It was torn down and the rubble buried as part of a superfund cleanup of the radioactive tailings.  Chapter 5 discusses the impact of road construction on the Grants-Gallup area.

[73]In addition to Montoya's essay, Ward Churchill and Winona LaDuke argue that uranium mining and weapons production facilities are located disproportionately on or near Western reservations in  "Native North America:  The Political Economy of Radioactive Colonial ism" in The State of Native America:  Genocide, Colonization and Resistance, ed. M Annette Jaimes (Boston:  South End Press, 1992) pp. 241-266.  See also other essays in Fernlund ed., The Cold War West.

[74]María Montoya, p.1 and passim. 

[75]Tad Bartimus and Scott McCartney, Trinity's Children:  Living along America's Nuclear Highway (Albuquerque:  University of New Mexico Press, 1991) pp. 208-288.

[76]Bartimus and McCartney, pp. 67-90. See also Hal Rothman, On Rims and Ridges:  The Los Alamos Area since 1880  (Lincoln:  University of Nebraska Press, 1992).

[77]The consequences of this road building and the uses these roads were put to by locals will be explored more fully in Chapter 5.

[78]George Rowley interview with Joyce Seligmann, March 19, 1984, interview transcript deposited at Special Collections, New MexicoStateUniversity, Grants Branch.

[79]Rowley interview.

[80]Evon Z. Vogt, "Ecology and Economy," in People of Rimrock, p. 186.

[81]Victor Chikezie Uchendu, "Seasonal Agricultural Labor among the Navaho Indians:  A Study in Socio-economic Transition" (Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1966), p. 142.

[82]Vogt, "Ecology and Economy," p. 186.

[83]Peña, p. 106. 

[84]McKinley CountyProperty Tax Record Books for 1941 and 1961, McKinley CountyCourthouse, GallupNew Mexico.   

[85]Peña, p. 82.  This is an especially, if unintentionally, ironic comment on Peña's part because during the Republican administrations of Nixon and Ford, he served as a development officer in Latin America for US AID.  In the process, he assisted various governments in transforming villages in the same way that San Mateo had been transformed.

[86]Interview with Tom Ration, Smith Lake, September 6, 1968, Doris Duke American Indian Oral History Collection, Center for Southwest Research, Zimmerman Library, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico (hereafter Doris Duke), File 154.

[87]Martin Begay, speaking at a Cheichilgestho Chapter meeting, August 1969, Doris Duke, File 298.

[88]Louise Lamphere, "Traditional Pastoral Economy," in Economic Development in American Indian Reservations, ed. Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Native American Studies, Development Series No. 1 (Albuquerque:  Native American Studies, University of New Mexico, 1979), p. 87.

[89]Churchill and LaDuke, p. 249.

[90]Churchill and Laduke, n. 38, p. 265.

[91]Fliers, "People of New Mexico" and "Stop Uranium Mining" in Anti-Uranium Rally file, Grants Daily Beacon files, Mother Whiteside Memorial Library, Grants, New Mexico.  Handwritten notes on both fliers indicate that they were distributed in San Mateo.