Researching former Navajo tribal chairman J.C. Morgan

Students have varied expectations when they head to college. Some expect to attend wild parties and perfect their beer pong skills, while others anticipate gripping classes taught by some of the world’s leaders in the subject. However, not many students journey to college expecting to road trip across Texas with their religion professor.

This past summer, junior Isaiah Ellis was awarded a Mellon Foundation Grant to conduct research with Angela Tarango, assistant professor

“The government decided that the area where the Navajos lived was overgrazed by their sheep, so they proposed a reduction of the livestock of 10 percent across the board,” Tarango said. “10 percent didn’t affect the bigger herders, but if you only have 50 sheep in your herd, you can starve. Morgan built his political campaign on opposing the Bureau of Indian Affairs stock reduction.”

Ellis and Tarango worked tirelessly at the archives from opening until closing throughout the week, finally finishing by 2 p.m. on Friday. Ellis spent hours scanning over one thousand documents with an electronic scanner that scans from overhead so as not to crunch the delicate papers, and Tarango is now perusing the documents that were collected to decide which information she will use when she begins writing her book on Jacob Morgan.

“The center was this lovely dark room with huge windows and lots of old books on the shelf,” Ellis said. “We had determined beforehand which collections we were going to ask for and filled out a form to order a certain number of boxes from the collection. The archivists then gave us markers to mark the pages that needed to be scanned. I’d never before handled actual documents that existed 80-90 years ago and it was definitely something I would do again.”

The experience in New Mexico was memorable for both student and teacher.

“With just me, it would have taken two weeks, but Isaiah was a fast worker and prepared ahead of time, so I could trust him to do it and do it right,” Tarango said. “It was fun for me

of religion. In July, Ellis and Tarango had the opportunity to visit the archives at the Center for Southwest Research at the University of New Mexico.

“My parents both recently moved out of Texas and I didn’t have anywhere to go in the summer when I got an email from Dr. Dupertuis about the Mellon Grants,” Ellis said. “So I approached Dr. Tarango and asked if she needed help doing research this summer. That’s how it all began.”

The pair traveled to New Mexico to research the subject of Tarango’s future book, former Navajo tribal chairman Jacob C. Morgan. Active in the mid-20th century, Morgan was both a Navajo and a Reformed Christian missionary who gained prominence as a politician when the United States government attempted to interfere in Navajo affairs.