Walter M. Kennedy is a living anachronism who spent half a century--from the pre-World War II era into the 1980s--practicing an almost mythical career on isolated trading posts on the Navajo Reservation. Kennedy, an Anglo, and his Native American clientele interacted and conducted business in much the same way as their historical predecessors, with little regard for contemporary socio-cultural and economic circumstances prevailing in the “outside world.” His personal memoirs--over five hundred pages of penciled notes--vividly recreate those experiences. The transcription and editing of those notes, enhanced by an extensive oral history project, comprise one element of this dissertation.
A second element, utilizing relevant cultural, historical and ethnographic literature as well as other autobiographical and biographical accounts, balanced whenever possible by Navajo accounts, provides interpretive context and continuity by means of endnotes and connective in-text narrative. The result of this dual perspective--one man’s life as viewed by the subject himself and by his biographer--is a multi-dimensional examination of the contemporary Indian trader (in many ways still a remnant of the Old West), and his role in perpetuating the myth of the “Indian" to present day Anglo and Navajo societies.
A discussion of the Navajo/trader relationship as a century-old, intercultural phenomenon precedes Kennedy's "trader's tales,” providing an introductory framework for the presentation and interpretation of his memoirs. Selected "stories" are then arranged chronologically and thematically in an effort to recreate Kennedy's life and career in its appropriate context. This personalized regional study in Anglo-Navajo relations is by necessity interdisciplinary in its scope and synthesis. The final portrait reveals an individual who continued to play out the trader's life and his many roles within Navajo society as he believed them to be, even as he was forced to confront the changing social characteristics and commercial realities of the twentieth century.
Level of Degree
First Committee Member (Chair)
M. Jane Young
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
John L Kessel
Fourth Committee Member
Peake, Nancy. "Trading Post Tales: Biography of an Indian Trader on the Navajo Reservation." (1992). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/amst_etds/110