— Book Review —
“The Case of the Indian Trader” Author: Paul D. Berkowitz ISBN: 978-0-8263-4859-3, $34.95 cloth 376 pages, 25 halftones, one map Publication: April 1011 Publisher: University of New Mexico Press By Rosanne Boyett Beacon Staff Writer
This is a story about cultural ignorance, about not asking, not listening, and not wanting to know the whole truth, according to author Paul Berkowitz. His book describes what happened when an “old-time” Indian trader comes into conflict with the federal government in the 21st century. Billy Malone, Hubbell Trading Post operator, is one of those “old-time traders” whose management practices were inspected and found wanting, according to modern-day business practices. “The old-time trading post is not strictly a profit-driven enterprise, and traders will sometimes sacrifice the bottom line in order to serve the more pressing needs of the community,” explained Berkowitz. Malone had spent most of his life operating Indian trading posts. He worked at the Keams Canyon Trading Post, Hopi reservation, before accepting the offer to run the Pinon trading post on the Navajo reservation in the early 1960s. He and his family became well-known in the Pinon community during the next 18 years. The trading post, located in a very remote region, served a widely scattered Navajo community. Malone and his wife Minnie raised their children at Pinon, which meant daily 100-mile roundtrips to Chinle, Ariz., where all five completed high school. Then Malone accepted an offer from the National Park Service (NPS) to operate the Hubbell Trading Post, located west of Gallup, N.M., and near Ganado, Ariz., on the Navajo reservation. He ran the Hubbell for more than 25 years. “That was longer than any other trader since John Lorenzo Hubbell himself,” wrote Berkowitz. “All told, Malone spent nearly half a century working and living as a genuine Indian trader. He earned his own place in history as a key figure on the Navajo reservation.” But managerial changes within the NPS and the Western National Parks’ Association (WNPA), which is responsible for managing the Hubbell post, caused NPS employees, WNPA and Malone to become overt adversaries. “One of the first direct conflicts between Billy Malone and Jim Babbitt (WNPA executive board chairman) reportedly occurred at the trading post in late 2002 or early 2003, during an unannounced visit by Babbitt, who questioned Malone about the wholesale supplier from who he secured the Pendleton blankets sold at the trading post,” according to Berkowitz. The differences culminated in June 2004 when NPS officials and WNPA staff closed the Hubbell, a national historic site, in order to perform a three-day audit. Charges were filed and after a lengthy investigation the U.S. Attorney General’s Office formally declined to prosecute Malone in 2007. The lifelong Indian trader continues to pursue justice through legal recourse and has filed a lawsuit claiming that the government repeatedly violated his civil rights. “I certainly believe that what happened to Malone was wrong and that he was treated unfairly,” concludes Berkowitz. The author, a retired National Park Service criminal investigator, was assigned as a federal agent to investigate serious problems that occurred during the initial NPA-WNPA 2004 investigations. He describes his reasons for bypassing the chain of command during his investigation and why he delivered his findings directly to the federal Office of the Inspector General. Berkowitz completed his career as a Navajo reservation supervisory special agent at Chinle, Ariz.