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50 Years Ago: Diné own most of stock in blasting company

Most people today probably won’t recognize the name but back in the early 1970s there was a company operating at Fort Wingate that manufactured blasting agents and distributed them throughout the United States.

Known originally as Eastern Navajo Indians Inc., it changed its name in the summer of 1971 to Navajo Chemical Inc.

An article published in the Navajo Times in August 1971 said the majority of stock was owned by Navajos. This company had a tie to the Navajos since the main entity behind its creation was the Eastern Navajo Housing Association.

The association worked with Phillips Petroleum to create the business and both owned a lot of stock in the company. Individual Navajos were given a chance to own stock as well and the largest stock owner was Wilson Etcitty, who lived in Crownpoint.

Ernest Murphy, the company’s general manager, said the company was doing extensive business with firms constructing the huge power plant in Page. The company also did business with several other companies in the Four Corners area that purchased explosives.

The company had only been in business 16 months in August 1971 and Ben Boyd, a technician at Phillips Petroleum who served as an advisor to the Navajo company, said it was unusual for a minority owned company to be making a profit so soon after its creation.

Murphy said arrangements were being made to allow employees to purchase stock in the company with the hopes that one day they would own the entire company.

I’m not sure how long the company survived. I have a vague memory of hearing about it but I have no recollection of ever writing a story about it so it may have only been in business for a couple of more years.

Chairman receives awards

For some reason, Navajo Tribal Chairman Peter MacDonald has been getting awards right and left this summer from organizations that don’t normally recognize Native Americans. The biggest was probably the Sons of the American Revolution which gave him its Good Citizen Award during a ceremony held in early August in Signal Hill, California.

The community of Signal Hills also gave him a commendation as did the Rules Committee of the California Senate.

Although MacDonald was raised in the Teec Nos Pos, Arizona, area of the reservation, he spent a few years working in California as an electrical engineer before being enticed to come back in the mid-1960s by the tribe’s chairman at the time, Raymond Nakai, so California could have considered him one of their own.

In any case, all three organizations honored him for his accomplishments as well as his leadership abilities.

In his acceptance speech for the Sons of the Revolution award, MacDonald said the Indian people will continue to live in poverty until the day comes that they control their own destiny.

The Indian people, he said, don’t want a hand-out but they do need help getting the training needed to acquire the skills needed to be self-sufficient.

MacDonald wants best fair ever

Speaking of MacDonald, he met with members of the tribe’s fair commission and said he wanted the upcoming tribal fair to be the best ever.

The fair would be celebrating its 25th, or Silver, anniversary this year and MacDonald said he wanted tribal members to remember this one for years.

The fair will honor Native veterans which it does every two or three years. But this year promises to be different.

In the first place, it will honor veterans from all the nation’s tribes and MacDonald is hoping many of them show up for the festivities.

He has also invited all members of the Armed Services Committee in Congress as well as the marching bands for each of the armed services.

Every tribal program and department has been ordered to create a float for the parade emphasizing the patriotism of the American Indian and their role in fighting the nation’s wars.

The tribal veteran’s office has been directed to come up with a list of names of very Navajo who has died in service to their country going back to the days when Navajos served as Army scouts.

MacDonald also invited the astronauts for the Apollo 15 mission who conducted part of their training at Grey Mountain, Arizona, near Cameron. The astronauts were asked to bring their space capsule with them.

The commission spent about 30 minutes discussing one of the main headaches encountered by everyone who goes to the fair – the parking.

Fairgoers talk about being blocked in when they park in the fair parking lot. Because there are no set places for parking, people had the habit of parking wherever there was space for a car even if it blocked other vehicles.

As a result, fairgoers who thought they had parked so they could get out easily would return in the late afternoon and find themselves blocked in, forcing them to wait hours before the other drivers showed up to allow them to drive away.

With many more cars expected this year, the committee talked about the possibility of setting up parking at other sites and busing people to and from the fairgrounds.


About The Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan has been writing about the Navajo Nation government since 1971 and for the Navajo Times since 1976. He is currently semi-retired and is living in Torrance, California, and continues to report for the Navajo Times.

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