Fabian Martinez finds his niche as the Southern Ute Drum Media Archivist

The Southern Ute Drum’s Media Archivist, Fabian Martinez uses a light table to determine the age and condition of color film negatives and 35mm slides.
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum

Fabian Martinez signed on with The Southern Ute Drum in February of 2019 to take on the responsibilities of organizing and archiving the newspaper’s decades old collection of printed newspapers, negatives and historic black and white photographs, which date back to the inception of the tribal newspaper in 1969.

Martinez has a unique understanding of the Drum’s newspaper history as a tribal publication. His years of research starting with his first Drum internship, has provide him with in-depth knowledge of the newspaper archives.

“History is important. I want to protect that history so that we have it for future generations. As historians we are able to go back and construct a better idea of the past or fill in our own histories. Our tribal histories are important to us as Nuche people,” Martinez emphasized.

Many of the historic photographs in The Southern Ute Drum archives remain unpublished images to this day, outtakes from important events, cultural gatherings or High School athletics. Often most memorable is the vast collection of tribal members and employees in and around the offices, in the field, or simply enjoying each other’s company.

Many of the oldest newspapers in the collection were published separately, as the Ignacio Chieftain, but still covered tribal news in addition to general news in and around the Southern Ute Reservation, some dating back as far as the 1920’s.

Martinez came on board to help the newspaper preserve and protect these valuable histories, while making them more readily available to tribal departments and the membership. In less than a year’s time, he has done just that. Organizing five decades of historic photos into acid free, dust proof folios; paving the way for digitization.

“As of right now, we still have a lot of work ahead of us as we are still organizing the negatives and contact sheets that were used to help produce the paper. It is important to protect these materials, as many of the photos, negatives, albums and newspapers were not correctly stored and many are showing signs of aging,” Martinez said.

An extensive inventory of the physical newspapers helped identify gaps in the collection, while also benefitting in organization — as well as protection from harmful UVs and other environmental elements such as dust. “To me personally, it was a big step to finish the physical newspaper inventory,” Martinez stated. “We were able to see what we have, don’t have, and how we can fill in those holes by reaching out to the tribal membership for newspapers.”

“We are planning out the digitizing process, which will help ensure that these materials are kept onward into the digital age. But there is still more organization with the physical materials that needs to happen before we can attempt digitizing newspapers and photos,” Martinez emphasized.

The inventory process is evolving as we better understand what we have, he explained. The photos were a big step forward. “This process has taken a lot longer than we expected; there is still so much more that we need to do. As long as we take special care of protecting the physical material, the longer they will last for future generations of Southern Ute tribal members to see their own history.”

Martinez position is made possible through the Tribe’s TEAMs program, which allows him to work in the department on a six-month basis. His second term as the Drum Media Archivist was renewed in October of last year. His ability to research and deliver photos and articles to the membership continuously proves to be a vital asset to the newspaper.

Martinez graduated from Ignacio High School in the class of 2014, he then went on to complete his Bachelors’ in General History at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo.

During his tenure at FLC, Martinez worked at The Southern Ute Drum as an intern. The internship was provided through the Tribe’s Higher Education department. “The internship was tailored to be specific to my interest in history and writing. Working in the newspaper archives, researching and publishing the Many Moons,” Martinez said. Many Moons is a feature of the newspaper that refences historical photos from past decades, corresponding to similar publications dates from 10, 20, and even 40 years ago.

“Newspapers are very historical, [they were vital] in getting national news out to the American West — especially in rural areas,” Martinez said. Overtime they evolved to encompass the needs of their readers, he explained. Informal writing evolved into formal writing and the news coverage that we know today.

A passion for history, especially his own Southern Ute history, and a sense of purpose has made Fabian Martinez the ideal candidate for this important undertaking. He is tasked with safeguarding a chapter of this Tribe’s history by delving into the newspaper archives and ensuring that the images and stories from decades past are around for years to come.


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