Martinez signs on as Media Archivist

Southern Ute tribal member, Fabian Martinez is working to implement archival processes for long term preservation and digitization of historic newspapers and photographs dating back to the 1920’s — with the ultimate goal of having these archival materials available to the membership online and SEO (keyword) searchable.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum

In my senior year at Fort Lewis College, I often heard the quote “The West is history,” and was periodically told by my advisor to keep that idea in mind as I continued to write my history thesis about the Fort Lewis and Southern Ute boarding schools. I often pondered its meaning while sifting through hundreds of documents in the Center of Southwest Studies detailing Southern Ute history. Each document I handled allowed me to be one step closer to writing my thesis, but not allowing me to answer my question.

It wasn’t until I began to do my research in the Southern Ute Drum archives that I discovered what the quote truly meant to my research, and me personally. I had spent many summers in high school working as an intern for the Southern Ute Drum Newspaper and in many ways, this was my second home. As I continued to do my research, I instantly became enamored with holding over 50 years of recent history within my hands. Holding each newspaper of the Ignacio Chieftain and the Southern Ute Drum allowed me to be one step closer to understanding my family history, my cultural history, and my tribal history. After finishing my thesis and my undergraduate studies, I began to understand that our tribe is an important part of the history of the West as well as the scope of information that was readily available within the Southern Ute Drum archives.

At the end of 2018, Southern Ute Drum Editor and Media Manager, Jeremy Shockley asked me to help organize and preserve the current archives that the Southern Ute Drum holds in their collection. Together we developed a project to help ensure that the Drum archive remains available not only to the tribal membership, but also preserved for generations to come.

Within this six-month project, we aim to get as close to digitizing all past issues of the Southern Ute Drum, as well as the Ignacio Chieftain & Bayfield Blade; many of which date back to the 1920’s, 50’s and 70’s. After the newspapers have been scanned, they will be put into an online database to be used by tribal members, indigenous scholars, and for academic research. Our hope is that by creating high quality digital copies of these historic newspapers, the originals can be safeguarded for long term preservation.

In preparation for the scanning process, I will go through the slow process of creating an inventory of all the materials. Thousands of papers, pictures, and negatives will be carefully documented to determine what is available following years of storage. After inventory, the newspapers will be transferred into new acid free archival folios that will allow for easier access of the materials. This will also allow for the papers to last for decades to come, minimizing further exposure to direct light, dust or other unseen environmental considerations. The final step in the project will determine how the physical copies of the materials will be maintained for the future of the archive.

While working as the Southern Ute Drum media archivist, I will also research the history of the newspaper and later this year, publish a story detailing the origin and development of the publication as we know it today. I am excited to share a piece of our tribal history with the membership and see what this project will accomplish for our newspaper.

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