Trickle of Documents Highlights National Park Service's Mistakes In Hubbell Trading Post Investigation

It took a lawsuit to pry investigative reports from the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General pertaining to a probe of the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. And then those documents were heavily redacted, as these two pages show.

Editor's note: Six-and-a-half years ago an investigation into the operation of the trading post at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site was launched after the National Park Service's Intermountain Region received allegations that the Indian trader there was embezzling from the trading post. Those charges never were substantiated, and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona declined to bring any charges in the case.

The Park Service's initial investigation, which cost upwards of $300,000, and possibly as much as $500,000 or more when you factor in salaries, led to a second investigation by the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General. That investigation raised many questions about how the Intermountain Region's investigation proceeded, as well as about the relationship of top regional officials and those from the Western National Parks Association that operates the trading post.

That OIG report, though completed in January 2008, has never officially been made public, for reasons the Park Service has not yet been able to explain. A heavily redacted version was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which shared it with the Traveler, whose own FOIA request has languished with Interior for more than a year. The following story looks at that OIG investigation and its conclusions to bring more light on how the Park Service handled the matter.

As dawn crested over Ganado, Arizona, on June 9, 2004, a well-armed contingent of National Park Service law enforcement officers and special agents rapped on the door of Billy Gene Malone's home.

While armed with a search warrant specifying a hunt only for financial records, ledgers and receipts, once inside they spent the next 18 hours rooting through the low-slung stucco house and carting away hundreds of Navajo rugs, thousands of pieces of jewelry, and unspecified quantities of cash and checks as Mr. Malone, his wife, and mother-in-law sat quietly on a couch and watched. Nearby, an armed guard stood at the door.

The search was launched at the request of Western National Park Association officials who had accused Mr. Malone, an iconic if not downright historic "Indian Trader" who had spent 20 years working at Hubbell Trading Post National Historical Site, of embezzling from the trading post and forging checks.

After nearly $300,000 (not including salaries) had been spent on the investigation by the Park Service's Intermountain Region, and after the region's investigation was itself investigated by the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General, no charges were filed against Mr. Malone.

Nor were charges brought against the NPS special agent who, the OIG's investigation concluded, had "submitted false information on the search warrant affidavit and did not properly account for cash and evidence seized." (The U.S. Attorney's Office declined prosecution ... in lieu of administrative remedies," the OIG notes in its Closing Report on the matter.)

While roughly four years' of NPS and OIG investigations led to dead-ends involving the initial charges that launched the expensive probe, they have raised troubling questions pertaining to the Park Service's managerial oversight, investigative thoroughness, and an "inappropriate relationship" between the agency and a cooperating association.

The history of the investigation seems to point to cultural differences between the Navajo Nation and the white man when it came to conducting business that Park Service officials apparently didn't readily recognize or understand. Those close to the investigation say many mistakes could have been avoided early on, and the case might not even have been pursued, if those who brought the charges and those who investigated them understood how traditional Indian traders operated.

The outcome also begs the question of whether Park Service officials, in this case those within the Intermountain Region Office, truly understood both the culture that their sites are intended to preserve and the mission they were given as caretakers of Hubbell Trading Post.

The ongoing silence from the Interior Department and the Park Service over the matter raises more questions tied to transparency, responsibility, and accountability within both Interior and the Park Service.

What the Investigation Uncovered

Requesting the initial investigation into Mr. Malone and his oversight and operation of the trading post was LeeAnn Simpson, who was WNPA's executive director and chief executive officer in June 2004 when she "contacted the Intermountain Regional Office of the National Park Service with information concerning the theft and embezzlement of retail sales from WNPA and the NPS and the forgery of WNPA bank checks occurring at Hubbell Trading Post," states the search warrant (attached below) obtained by NPS Special Agent Clyde Yee.

It was this request, made just five days before Special Agent Yee executed the search warrant on Mr. Malone's rented government home with armed agents wearing bullet-proof vests, that led to a years' long investigation that failed to win any convictions let alone lead to any arrests and which painted a critical picture not only of the Intermountain Region but also of the Western National Parks Association.

The investigation by the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General produced a report that portrayed a dysfunctional investigation and a Park Service hierarchy in Denver that got too cozy with WNPA officials.

Parts of heavily redacted OIG reports obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility state that:

* "(T)he NPS failed to protect the confidentiality of the investigation."

According to OIG investigations, Park Service special agents had representatives from WNPA's accounting firm join them in searching Mr. Malone's home; the same accounting firm was retained to perform a forensic audit at the trading post despite the apparent conflict of interest that existed from its role as WNPA's accounting firm of record; early on during the course of investigation Intermountain Regional Director Steve Martin and Deputy Director Mike Snyder were in regular contact with WNPA officials over how to proceed.

"It is a problem for both of us," Mr. Martin was quoted as telling WNPA officials during one meeting held to discuss how to fund the audit.

In a note in their report, OIG agents said it was unclear whether Mr. Martin violated agency regulations by asking the WNPA to provide $75,000 for the forensic audit. While regional directors have the authority to approve donations from cooperating associations for research projects, land acquisitions, interpretive projects and historic preservation and restoration work, "WNPA funding of the criminal investigation does not appear to fall under any of the authorized categories," the agents noted.

* "(W)e found that an improper relationship existed between NPS and WNPA."

"Our investigation revealed that NPS law enforcement and NPS Intermountain Region management allowed an almost open-door policy in regard to including WNPA in the investigation at the trading post," one section of OIG's Closing Report stated. At one point of the investigation a Park Service official said they received "six to telephone calls a week" from WNPA officials regarding the case status, and "also spoke with WNPA Chairman Jim Babbitt about the investigation on at least one occasion."

According to (redacted) interview report, (redacted) recalled a conversation (redacted) had with NPS Intermountain Region Director Mike Snyder, where (redacted) pressured Snyder to accelerate the investigation and provide (redacted) and the WNPA Board of Directors with more information. (Redacted) admitted to (redacted) that when Snyder said (redacted) did not think (redacted) had the influence to do so, (redacted) told Snyder to determine who did have the influence and to get them to speed things up, as well as obtain more information for (redacted) and the Board.

* The Park Service's law enforcement branch in this investigation failed to conduct a "thorough investigation" and maintain proper "management oversight of the case."

For example, the OIG investigation determined that Park Service special agents initially handed the case failed to interview former WNPA officials familiar with the Hubbell Trading Post operations and Mr. Malone's running of the trading post.

When OIG agents interviewed those individuals, they were provided with information "that revealed WNPA had been aware of some of (redacted) unorthodox business practices and had allowed them to occur. (Redacted) stated that former WNPA management had allowed (redacted) to run the Hubbell Trading Post and conduct (redacted) own trading and collecting, using (redacted) residence as an extension of the trading post to work and selling trading post items."

For instance, the documents outline, WNPA had a long track record of poor record-keeping at the trading post, one that some of those interviewed thought made it questionable to support allegations of embezzlement. Indeed, one representative of the Devries and Associates accounting firm that had worked for WNPA told OIG investigators that "their audits of HTP did not reveal a huge decline in revenues as alleged by WNPA and subsequently related to the NPS as a basis for criminal investigation."

The reports did craft a picture of curious bookkeeping at the trading post, one in which some paychecks went uncashed, accounting of inventory and sales was irregular, gross profits were not accurately tracked, and odd ways in which WNPA allocated its costs.

But, again, these were practices that seeming had been in place for years, according to those interviewed by OIG agents. And interviews neglected by the initial Park Service special agents but pursued by the OIG agents showed that it wasn't unusual for an Indian trader to endorse a check made out to a weaver or artisan. Often these individuals didn't read, speak, or write English and so could do little more than make their "mark" on a check, which the trader in turn would routinely endorse for them so they could be cashed, one interview noted.

Mr. Malone also had permission to routinely keep many trading post items in his home -- both consignment articles and those belonging to the trading post, the investigation found. Indeed, although the search warrant specifically sought permission to obtain only financial records, ledgers, and receipts, the NPS agents by the end of their nearly 18-hour-long day in Mr. Malone's house hauled away "557 Navajo rugs, 7,000 pieces of jewelry, and an indeterminate amount of cash and checks."

As to how much cash and checks were taken, OIG investigators said that couldn't be ascertained because "(redacted) did not document the seizure or use appropriate chain-of-custody procedures."

Not only was the chain of custody apparently broken during the search and subsequent seizure and storage of ornate rugs, jewelry and cash, but the NPS search team seemed to show no regard for what they took from Mr. Malone's house. OIG agents pointed out in their Closing Report that "(N)either the search warrant nor the search warrant affidavit properly identified the items that were ultimately seized by the search team. In addition, our review of the seized rugs revealed less than 30 percent bore markings or tags from Hubbell Trading Post or WNPA."

While a forensic audit eventually was performed by an Interior Department-OIG selected auditor, that review was unable to discern "whether (redacted) or anyone had embezzled or stolen from the Hubbell Trading Post or WNPA due to inadequate source documents and numerous accounting problems that existed at WNPA."

Later in their Closing Report the OIA agents noted that "we could not locate an official case file documenting investigative activity or periodic case reviews by NPS law enforcement management. NPS could not provide essential documents during our investigation, including chain-of-custody records, interview reports, copies of subpoenas served, and search-warrant inventory records."

The volumes of reports also noted that Mr. Malone's operation of the trading post seemed to run counter to what WNPA officials on board in the early 2000s envisioned. Whereas the Indian trader offered consignment rugs and jewelry from Navajo weavers and artists along with merchandise purchased by WNPA from its vendors, WNPA officials wanted to do away with consignment goods, according to some of those interviewed.

"WNPA was 'not real nice' to the Navajo community adjacent to HTP and actually did things to hurt the community," one OIG investigative report, made Feb. 8, 2007, said. "The weavers and artisans were pushed out. WNPA ended up changing a long-standing tradition between the Navajo and HTP. (Redacted) opined that consignments could have continued and the whole thing was a knee-jerk reaction by WNPA."

Silence from Washington

All those issues were highlighted on January 16, 2008, in the OIG's final report on the Hubbell Trading Post investigation. Since then, though, no official report has been released by the Interior Department. Park Service officials in Washington could not say last Friday what the status of the matter was.

The Park Service did respond, privately, to the OIG's final report. In that response the agency acknowledges that those initial investigators and managers who looked into the business operations at Hubbell Trading Post exhibited "poor case management" and "poor judgment and performance. That June 2009 letter to OIG -- sent 18 months after OIG filed its final report -- noted that the Park Service "took significant actions to address the agent's performance issues..." but did not mention whether those who supervised the special agent were disciplined, nor whether any of the top managers in the Intermountain office were reprimanded by the Washington office.

Mike Snyder, who was deputy director of the regional office when the Hubbell Trading Post probe was first initiated and later became regional director, retired in February 2010 rather than agreeing to a reassignment.

Steve Martin, who was regional director at the time the investigation was launched and went on to serve as deputy director of the Park Service in Washington before transferring to Grand Canyon National Park to serve as superintendent, retired earlier this month.

Neither Mr. Martin nor Mr. Snyder have been willing to discuss the Hubbell investigation.

The Indian trader, Mr. Malone, brought a civil lawsuit against a number of Intermountain Region staff, including Mr. Martin and Mr. Snyder. In it he accused the Park Service personnel of misconduct and wrongful seizure of his personal property, and also alleged that Park Service officials collaborated with officials from the Western National Park Association in trying to build a case against him.

However, a judge removed the Park Service officials from the matter last February, saying he didn’t think a case could be built to show a conspiracy against Mr. Malone existed between the NPS and WNPA, according to William Hobson, Mr. Malone’s attorney. The lawsuit remains pending against WNPA officials.

PEER officials, meanwhile, can't understand the reticence of either the Park Service or the Interior Department.

"The botched Hubbell Trading Post investigation was a perfect opportunity for the Interior Inspector General to bring a measure of accountability to a dysfunctional Park Service law enforcement program that has gone off the rails," says Jeff Ruch, the executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. "Rather than do its job, the Inspector General has made a bad problem worse by deep-sixing its own investigative report. This report is seeing the light of day only because PEER had to file a federal lawsuit to pry it out of deep freeze.

"We still don’t know why this investigation went from high priority to back burner to off the stove entirely, in that the final report was never officially issued."

Hubbell Trading Post's Significance

More than just a historic site intended to capture a moment in Western history, when Hubbell Trading Post Historic Site was justified to Congress it was done so with the clear intent that the days of Indian traders would not merely be preserved behind glass but maintained on a daily trading business.

In 1966 when he appeared before a congressional committee to answer questions about Hubbell Trading Post, then-Park Service Director George Hartzog told the congressmen that he envisioned a traditional operation, not one governed by present-day business methods. Indeed, at one point in a meeting with Bob Utley, the Park Service's regional historian at the time, Mr. Hartzog made it abundantly clear that he didn't want the trading post turned into a museum, according to the Park Service's administrative history of the site, written in 1993.

"Hartzog erupted vehemently that he would not countenance another god-damned dead embalmed historic site, that it must be a living trading post," Mr. Utley recalled to the history's authors, Albert and Ann Manchester.

The administrative history of Hubbell Trading Post makes this intention quite clear.

The mission of the Park Service at the historic site is of course the protection and preservation of the site, but, and this is unique in the Park System, the site is also intended to perpetuate, for as long as possible, the trading post business as an example of that kind of business. This is the only trading post owned by the American people. It is important to note that although this historic site has museum-like aspects, it is not a museum, and for the most part is not a site intended to be "frozen in time." This may be our only historic site that is intended to go on evolving, a real business that will change as the Navajo themselves change.

With roots in the 1870s, the trading post at the time of its addition to the National Park System was the "oldest trading post still in operation on the Navajo Reservation, and it was the oldest business still operating in northern Arizona," reads a portion of the administrative history.

When the Manchesters first visited the site in 1981, they quickly realized the significance of Hubbell Trading Post and the living history it preserved.

Hubbell Trading Post is not just an old trading post; it is a window to a very rich world. A world of traders and trading posts, of military campaigns against Indians, the campaigns and marauding of those Indians against the people history brought upon them. Hubbell Trading Post was one of the focal points during a collision of conflicting cultures. And the site has been occupied by man probably since man first walked into the area thousands of years ago and found water here; he has left dwellings, artifacts and burials here. The place is rich in the lore of arts and crafts. Significant people lived here, worked here, passed by here. Although small in area, Hubbell Trading Post is undoubtedly one of the richest cultural resources owned by the American people.

And even back around 1980, Billy Malone was a living, walking, and trading part of that history, they noted.

When you do business with Bill Malone you are taking part in a tradition that goes back, now, 115 years; Bill is the most recent link in an unbroken chain that you can follow right back to the mid-1870s. In the West, that spells Tradition.

Here the Park Service had an opportunity not to simply preserve history, but to keep it alive through an active trading post, and an Indian trader who in the old ways took in rugs and jewelry from Navajo artisans and offered them, and history, for sale.

Was Tradition And History Waylaid?

But that tradition seemingly was overlooked or lost in the early 2000s when there was a change of leadership at the Western National Parks Association. Reading through the OIG interviews and reports and talking with those familiar with the matter, it seems that Ms. Simpson's predecessors had no troubles with Mr. Malone's "quirky ways" and appreciated him for what he brought to the trading post, according to those reports.

In interviews with special agents Ms. Simpson's predecessor commented that the association's board was thrilled to hire Mr. Malone, as he had "an incredible knowledge of life on the rez and of the weavers."

When asked specifically of Mr. Malone's trustworthiness, this executive replied, "We never had any reason to suspect (redacted) honesty."

Additional material from that interview established that the Indian trader's habits of doing work on the side with Navajo weavers and jewelry makers was commonly accepted and not a concern. It was also well-known and accepted that Mr. Malone kept goods in his private residence, the interviews show.

Having Mr. Malone run the trading post and accepting his methods was "viewed as an acceptable trade-off for having one of the last real (redacted) there to run Hubbell Trading Post and to maintain a genuine historical atmosphere," the former executive was quoted as saying.

It sounded like just the atmosphere that the late Mr. Hartzog hoped Hubbell Trading Post would exude.

So what now? Those close to the matter say Hubbell Trading Post's reputation with the Navajo weavers and artisans has been tarnished to the point that many are unwilling to trade with it, that the trading post is closer now than ever to becoming that museum Mr. Hartzog wanted so desperately to avoid.

Park Service officials at the trading post hope to avoid that and have scheduled meetings in the coming weeks with both a select few to discuss ways to return the trading post to the way it was and then with a larger community of stakeholders, including weavers and jewelry makers.

Among those invited?

Billy Malone.


The Hubbel affair has erie similarities to another effort spearheaded by, the now retired, Mr. Martin. The lack of transparency by NPS and the concessionaire under Superintendent Martin involving FOIA and the willingness to answer direct questions that could illuminate the real motivations for gutting the Grand Canyon Mule Rides, is very familiar to those close to the issue.
I sincerely hope the damage inflicted on BOTH icons of the Southwest can be FULLY rectified with rebuilt trust and pride in what we all would like to believe NPS and it's concessionaire's embody.

Wow, what a sensationalized bit of reporting. Perhaps enough to make me not wish to read the "Traveler" any longer.

So, let's see. Federal officers serving a judicial-branch issued warrant wore ballistic vests. Ooh, that is surely news. (of course, nobody would ever want to hurt an NPS LE officer- right?) They then found what they believed was evidence of crime based on the reports of the supposed wronged party and seized it? Yep, that sounds awfully fishy as well. (hardly) No charges were made? So Mr. Malone was cleared of charges? After due process, as given by another historical treasure of the US (Bill of Rights) provides? Still not seeing anything worth reporting.

Then we diverge from the sensationalism a bit and try to report on the supposed failed relationship between the NPS and the Navajo Nation. There are always cultural differences. The NPS is never going to make everyone pleased. WNPA is a business and will act as such. Shall we have no oversight into the businesses in the parks? Xanterra and ARAMark will be very pleased to hear this.

Let's try to report instead of suppose.

With Dr. Cid Martin as Special Assistant for Intermountain Indian Affairs and American Culture did she have any involvement in the Hubbel issue during Intermountain Regional Director Steve Martin rein? I ask because there was an incident on the Bright Angel Trail at Grand Canyon involving a trail guide and his guests that detailed how Superintendent Martin and his wife Cid while not identifying themselves harangued the guide while he was tending to a rider. Martin's party had to wait more than their positions, apparently, would allow and their actions endangered the whole party. It was all witnessed by many at the scene and support this recollection.
There was a call made to the concessionaire by Superintendent Martin which resulted in the dismissal of a top guide with a wealth of experience in livestock, Emergency Medical Services and loved what he was able to share with his guests.
There was a FOIA request concerning the incident resulting in a response from NPS that there was no record of the incident.
If anyone has another view of this incident I'd like to hear it but this is what began Superintendent Steve Martin's relationship with the Mule Barn here at the Canyon.
Pardon me for taking a side road here from the Hubbel Issue but I recognized the parties involved,arrogance and empowerment common to both incidents.
Thanks, Traveler, for allowing actions the light of day so real positive movement can be achieved.

Thanks for reporting this story. I'm not really interested in the current aspects of the criminal investigation, stuff happens and who is surprised that NPS does not exactly advertise with its mistakes. But I was fascinated with the atmosphere when I was in Hubbell Trading Post long ago but did not really understood the importance of the site. Now I looked into the administrative history book and suddenly got at least a glimpse of what I saw back then.

This is a special place in the National Park System. It is unique in its mandate and in the way business is conducted there. The intermountain office under Mike Snyder did not get it, unfortunately not even the SPMA really understood what they are doing there, and consequently the conflict grew.

Maybe some things will have to change about the business now, but I hope the spirti can be maintained.

It is interesting with all of the authors investigation the fact that the special agents did not work for snyder or martin is not pointed out. The special agents are out of the line of supervision and influence of management and supervised directly out of washington DC. And of course NPS will not comment when a law suit is still under way. of all the issues of significance it is interesting that the NPT seems focused on this one with rather sensational and somewhat shoddy reporting

I appreciate the reporting and comments but the best statement (my opinion) I noted in the reporting came from Ex NPS Director Hartzog.

"Hartzog erupted vehemently that he would not countenance another god-damned dead embalmed historic site, that it must be a living trading post," Mr. Utley recalled to the history's authors, Albert and Ann Manchester.

Of course I would like to hear that comment voiced from present NPS Director Jon Sarvis about the, equally iconic, Grand Canyon Mule Rides that are being gutted as we speak. The Stock Use EA waiting for IMR Director Wessels's signature.

NPS ought to embrace the culturally historic operations of BOTH the Hubbell Trading Post AND the Grand Canyon Mule Rides! Mistakes of thought and understanding are present in both issues by some of the same parties. These things are fluid and being afraid of making mistakes often sets things apart where nothing can get done the way it should but realizing the reality and resolving the mistakes is good, very good. Hope both of these issues end well.

this definitely keeps up with the fields view of NPT as National Park Tattler. Leave it alone, and if you are going to report try to get all the facts and drop the witch hunt. The investigators blew it, but they were good people, just didnt handle it well. One of the pproblems of taking the special agents out from direct supervision by superintnedents and moving them to DC. Also missing is current regional director Wessels was in charge of buisness operations and recommended to management that a case be pursued

To NPS field employee:
If there hadn't been countless efforts requesting more information (including FOIA) on this and the issue I've brought up there might be more confidence in the process. The darkness makes one think that things are running amok and protecting careers are a higher priority than the public trust, imagine that.

These mule guys need to get real. The canyon is 300 million in the hole maintenance wise 25 million on the trails 90 percent caused by the mules. Get the Canyon so get the canyon some funds and keep the mules. They are so self centered and personal they don't understand the issue

Ha Ha Ha, if we could shed some light on the numbers and motivations of your world I'm hoping that more of what's happened at Hubbell and the Canyon by familiar faces is not widespread. There are questionable choices made with what seems like a parallel universe when it comes to money, career paths, personal bias and trust. Plastering the Trail Head at Yaki here on the Rim with a obnoxious sign lauding the spending of Recovery (stimulus) funds borrowed from the Chinese while spending $150 dollars per rock (i can pick each one up) to be moved down the trail. Open the books and lets examine the world of NPS and the choices that have been made here and at Hubbell, UNREDACTED! There is a REAL correction going on in a GRAND way and hope that the REAL value of the historical, geological and cultural icons of our country are presented correctly.
Get real? Ha!

"Hartzog erupted vehemently that he would not countenance another god-damned dead embalmed historic site, that it must be a living trading post,"

The best line I've heard by anyone in NPS leadership. That's "Getting Real!"

7000 pieces of jewelry is an insane amount. That has to be the largest amount of Indian jewelry ever collected. Almost one piece for every day Bill Malone was there. 557 rugs is also a huge amount. I guess it could be worse - he could have been hoarding cats.

The National Park Service and WNPA were in a relationship that was corrupting and in the end costly to NPS, damaging to the priceless assets of the Hubbell Historical Site. Steve And Cyd Martin, Mr Snyder have all jumped ship to escape the wrath of God .

Cyd Martin was told, warned, that the actions of the Park Service and WNPA were unfounded and doomed to failure. She chose to ignore those words of wisdom. The Park Service and WNPA through ignorance and arrogance came close to destroying Hubbell Historic site.

WNPA is an Historic entity. 72 years of faithful service, doing great work for NPS ...

This comment was edited to remove gratuitous language. -- Ed.

Thank you for this report. I have been aware of the situation since the day Mr. Malone's life was up-ended. His life as a trader was destroyed, he and his family were removed from the place they had called home for many years, and their personal property was taken from them along with HTP items. It was uncalled for and those responsible should be put on trial. The downside of this report is that it makes Ms Simpson look responsible. This woman was a new hire at WNPA and requested by the Board to follow the actions she took. It is extremely unfortunate that she was put in this position and as sad for her as it is for Mr Malone. Again, those responsible should be put on trial. The other thing that must be stressed is the damage done to HTP. The current NPS personnel at the Post have tried very hard to make amends with the community but the breach of trust was so egregious that it is still not known if this is even possible. Everyone with a history with HTP is still mourning the loss of the trading post, replaced with a fairly typical WNPA store.

If anyone doubts Mr Malone's integrity, they may ask themselves why Shush Yaz in Gallup, NM advertises that he works for them on a highway billboard. He is beyond reproach. And, yes, in the interest of openness, I do like the man, but I do not know him very well. I only know him because I once worked with him in the past.

It is DISGUSTING! by any accounts what this agency has done hiding behind all the lofty ideals they profess. BS. :)

I can tell you that I was once the Chief Ranger at Hubbell Trading Post and no one talked to me.

Hubbell Trading Post had a position for "Chief Ranger"?

jeepers, Dottie ! I would hope every national park system area would have a "Chief Ranger" position.

The Ranger is our primary point of contact when we visit a national park.

To me, the ranger symbolizes consistent excellence that ties all these highly diverse parklands together, and symbolizes that each park tells an essential part of the american experience.

Hubbell Trading Post could have continued as a private operation, House Museum or something similar. The Ranger is the demonstration that it is NATIONAL!

I would prefer a National Park Service person please reply to my question, rather than a visitor to the national parks. Did and/or does Hubbell Trading Post have a position titled "Chief Ranger"? If it is part of the Navajo Lands Group (if that still exists), then it would probably share such a position with maybe Canyon de Chelly; that's all I was wondering.

The current NPS People and Places Directory entry for Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site lists 11 individuals and 11 different job titles as follows:


No wonder they are always wanting money, from ANYONE!

I can answer Dottie’ question. A park operates 24/7, even if it is closed to the public. As Chief Ranger, I lived on the site and provided law enforcement protection for the extremely valuable trading post, the historic buildings, and the contents. Navajo police are a long way off, as was fire protection. I oversaw all interpretation programs, tours, and operations of the visitor center. I managed the park's natural resources - yes, it has them, and also has a number of archeological sites (not open or visible to the public). I was responsible for visitor safety and working with the tribe and others on protecting the park and visitors. It is not practical to have one chief ranger for two parks an hour apart. You need someone on site as the supervisor of operations. Some positions in the park do serve other parks in the area. To the comment above, 11 people to operate a park is not really a lot of people when you are open every day of the year. You have to include holidays and allow for employees to take vacations and sick leave.

Here is some rough math to demonstrate. One person working 8.5 hours a day (30 minutes is lunch) x 365 days = 365 person/days. Each person works only 5 days a week (5 x 52 weeks) =260 person/days. That means you would need 1.4 people to have one person at work one shift each day. Of course, figuring in sick leave and vacation, you need about 2 people. Now, having said that, it really doesn't work to have one person on duty alone. So, double that to have 2 people on duty. Now you are up to 4 employees. You can sometimes get by with fewer in the winter so let’s make it a total of 3 Rangers/Visitor use Assistants. Add the fact that Hubbell has one of the most extensive museum collections of Indiana artifacts in the National Park System, and you add a curator and assistant who maintain the collection and daily clean all the objects on display, inspect them for damage, and treat them as needed. Add a superintendent and administrative person. Add a couple of people who maintain the property: people who repair things, snow plow the road, paint, do plumbing and electrical work, maintain the park vehicles etc. Generally, you have 2 of these people on each day because many jobs require two people- so total 3 for maintenance. It does not take long to get to 11 staff. In fact, 11 are barely enough to run the park adequately on a full year schedule. Oh, and contracting or buying services in a remote location like Hubbell – doesn’t work too well. No nearby place to get things repaired. So figure some staff are gone for a good part of entire days driving back and forth to Gallup and other places for service.

Malone's lawsuit can be viewed at Some of it seems self-incriminating to me. In his lawsuite, he admits to 6000 pieces of jewelry (WOW!) and HTP tags on some of the rugs. At the very least, wasn't he was using the HTP trade mark to enhance the value of "his" items? Wouldn't that be like me selling coffee in Starbucks cups? So I have a hard time visualizing a scenario whereby he is completely absolutely squeaky clean.

In any case, 6000 pieces of jewelry shows a real problem.

The OIG investigation indicated that it was common practice, and accepted by former executives with WNPA, for Mr. Malone to use his government-owned home as an extension of the trading post. It also pointed out that in it he kept both personal property he gathered over the years, consignment items, and trading post items.

Without an inventory, something that the NPS special agents who searched Mr. Malone's home failed to compile, it's hard to say how much of those 6,000-7,000 pieces of jewelry were personal property, consigned items, or trading post items.

As for HTP tags enhancing the value of an item, why would they? Wasn't the value in the item (ie. rug or jewelry) itself, not the tag?

In reply to RangerToo, I lived in Chinle during the mid 70's, and at that time Hubbell was not the place it is today, which is why I was asking about the staff positions. Yes, I do know all about manhours, etc., and 24/7 scheduling. Thank you to both you and Bob for clarifying the situation.

Thank you for this article! It has been a very long road to redemption for my father, Bill Malone. After so many years of waiting…I think our family can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Although I have to admit to feeling frustrated after reading the comments. “Sensationalized reporting…stop the witch hunt…self incriminating…” (Anonymous of course). Those same words could be used to describe the investigation and actions of the NPS and WNPA. There were never any charges filed against my father. Yet, here we are, almost seven years later still in the dark. Sadly, some would like to call that due process.

Hubbell Trading Post and my father were a very unique combination. My father dedicated his life to that place. I do not recall my father ever taking a vacation, rarely did he take a day off. When you hear the number of items taken from my father’s home, I can only imagine the speculation. My father managed Hubbell Trading Post for over 23 years, a great accomplishment in itself. Before that he managed Pinon Mercantile in Pinon, AZ for almost 20 years. Over 40 years of working in the trading business alone should be enough to explain the vast number of jewelry and rugs in his home. Were they all of the best and rarest in quality? No, but to my father, priceless. I remember going through some of those rugs in question. One of those rugs, a rather small rug, and not the best in quality. I asked my father why he even bought the rug, thinking he paid too much for it. He then replied “Daughter, that rug is special, because it was made by the daughter of a Navajo weaver…it was her first rug, and someday I hope to give it to her mother.” Humbled by his reply, I never again questioned my father’s acquisitions.

There were no farewell or retirement parties for my parents. It was, “you are fired, and you have two weeks to be out.” Two weeks to move a lifetime…it was a difficult time for my parents. Can you imagine your home being torn apart, your personal belongings being taken without a justifiable reason, being uprooted from your home and friends, and your dignity stripped away? My father had to try and pick up the pieces and move on. All the while, wondering day to day about the investigation. I strongly feel that the people involved, big or small, in making “unwarranted” accusations against my father should be held to the same scrutiny and accountability as was my father!

A lot of people have the relationship with Hubbell and the Native people all wrong. There is no conflict with the Navajo Tribe and the NPS. Hubbell was a place for the local people to pick up their mail, cash a check, or pick up a few groceries. Local artisans could sell or trade their work there. Where else in the world could you walk into a place with your handmade jewelry, and leave with a bag of groceries? The closest bank and grocery store is at least 40 miles away. My father, who spoke fluent Navajo, on occasion translated letters for elder Navajos who did not speak or read English. Why did they come to my father? Simply put, they trusted him. Hubbell was more than just a trading post on the reservation, people from all over the world came to do business there. You take all of those qualities away and all you have is a gift shop. Sadly, the life of the place has long been lost…

Our family will always be grateful to our friends and the community of Ganado. Ganado is where I grew up, and I will always call it home. I know it holds a special place in my father’s heart. In the end, I know my father is not a person without faults, but he was never the criminal that the NPS and WNPA painted him to be. He is and will always be, Bill Malone the "Trader."

People can argue who handled what, who supervised who, who did or did not do what they should or should not have done in this very, very, very long investigation for which no charges were ever brought, for which no evidence was ever found that even appeared to substantiate claims made by the accusers...
....but what cannot be argued is that a good man was harmed and a community suffered a great and unnecessary loss.

You have it right, I believe, Mr. Bahti. Also the three principles involved are safely in a VERY comfortable retirement mode. There's another action these participants guided at the Canyon before there departure.

I first learned of this issue during the fall of 2009 while reading an account in the newspaper of the Navajo Nation. By that time, I had already visited the Hubbell Trading Post. I had an excellent visit with the NPS cultural resources specialist, but my visit of the operating trading post itself left much to be desired. My wife could not get many of her questions answered as the manager in charge seemed to be preoccupied settling personal business. I took an interest in the possible purchase of a Native American drum, but could not get any information about where it was actually made. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a flaw in the shell of the drum which was patched by what seemed to be rockhard wood filler, and I lost interest in purchasing the item.

Interestingly, a few hours later when looking at the high quality hand made elkskin-covered cottonwood drums on dispay at the Sush Yaz Trading Post in Gallup, NM, I finally decided on a purchase. Some time later, I became more aware of the situation at Hubbell, and learned that the manager of Sush Yaz was none other than Trader Billy Malone! What a coincidence.

BJ, thank you for commenting on this article and speaking out on behalf of your father. The NPS is now under new management, and I hope that they will work diligently to make things right with him.

Thanks for the article. . .I'm not sure I understand the sequence of events or the lack of outcome, but found it interesting none the less. We enjoyed visiting HTP last year and thought the lack information and coversation offered was maybe a cultural thing. Navajos as a people seem shy/distant around visitors or outsiders. In other Navajo businesses I also found I had to initiate the dialog, and then they seemed to warm to the task. Some I encountered remained a bit aloof I felt.(not a criticism) As for this mess of an investigation, I hope it's behind us and whomever is in charge of Hubbel treats it AND it's people like the treasure it is. The still active trading post aspect of HTP is EXACTLY why we went out of our way to visit. As to the previous stream of comments, those signed Anonymous should be ignored, if you don't sign your name to your ravings they really don't matter and I skip right past them. (In other words-Man Up or go away). Thanks again, Craig

Thanks for the article. . .I'm not sure I understand the sequence of events or the lack of outcome, but found it interesting none the less. We enjoyed visiting HTP last year and thought the lack information and coversation offered was maybe a cultural thing. Navajos as a people seem shy/distant around visitors or outsiders. In other Navajo businesses I also found I had to initiate the dialog, and then they seemed to warm to the task. Some I encountered remained a bit aloof I felt.
I think it all depends on the generation. During a long trip a few years back, we met numerous Navajo people throughout Utah and Arizona - generally younger men/women in the service industries. I needed a haircut and a young Navajo woman did an excellent job while answering a few questions I had about the area. The desk clerk (who was Navajo) at our motel in Moab was actually quite outgoing and recommended places to visit on the Navajo reservation. We received service on par with any other similar establishments staffed by those who weren't Navajo.

What I do recall was a lot of roadside crafts stands along the way to Grand Canyon NP. They had signs with cute messages including "FRIENDLY INDIANS". The signs changed when one went past the stands, including "IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO TURN BACK".

YOU CAN'T MAKE IT UP: What an absolute travesty. Bill Malone became bigger than Hubbell by simply being himself. Bill treats every man, woman, and child like they are part of his own family. That's what makes this man a national treasure. Because of Bill's popularity some individuals decided to try and steal from Bill what he values most besides his family and that was his reputation which he spent a life time building. Obviously that effort failed. These folks did not know their elbow from a hot rock and went about destroying the shining star of the NPS. Now they want Hubbell to return to what it was and are going to hold meetings to try and fix it. The answer is simple. Have WNPA stand down and try to persuade Bill Malone to return to Hubbell to heal it. Bill's daughter summed it all up perfectly when she said Bill Malone is and always will be TRADER TO THE NAVAJO.

The ultimate recognition for Bill Malone is, that if John Lorenzo Hubbell was to have picked his replacement --it would have been Bill Malone. I'm sure that as Mr. Hubbell "looks down" from his spot atop Hubbell Hill, he must be heart broken and enraged to see what the park service and WPMA have done to his post. The NPS has violated the trust of the Hubbell family and WPMA(a so called not for profit organization) has turned a historic trading post(subsidized by the American people) into a gift shop-- next step, convenience store. As BJ, Bill's daughter so eloquently stated, Bill Malone will always be Trader to the Navajo."

I concur. Billy Malone is one of the most finest, honest and forthright person I know. He was and will always be known as the Trader at the Hubbell Trading Post, and he definitely is Trader to the Navajo as BJ puts it. And, I for one stopped trading with the Hubbell Trading Post when this unjust action started.

One thing for sure Billy Gene Malone is one of the best story tellers in the cowboy tradition of his Texas roots.

And did Mr. Malone have receipts for the items in is NPS residence? I am sure he would need these for the IRS.

Have to think at least one of the many thousands of new IRS agents just hired would be hot on that! Maybe the new agents could double as border security officers checking their Social Security Cards:). You used to only see this kind of stuff in the cartoons.

This network may lead to some interesting places.

RE: Liz

Maybe to the bottom of why this sort of thing happens and a correction of the problem, in the best sense, occurs.

And what about the meeting? I hear rumors that the meeting took place and Hubbell management wasn't not receptive to inputs given. Is this correct?

Since Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site has it's records stored at a university it would be easy to verify why when jewelry was marked up 300% there was only a 10% net profit. Hmmm

The book is out boys and girls. I know it is banned and prohibited reading for Park Service employees. But the Billy Malone book is out!!!! The truth is out and it shall set you free!!!!
Read it and weep all the way from ocean to ocean to ocean, Denver to Washington. Hide yee weak hearted infidels!

I'm guessing there might be something learned beyond the PR wars and not just an assault. There is soooo much untruthful agenda driven stuff all around us. No doubt it will always be so but we could look at what we hear and read more critically and try and see the end game. Could be fun :). So where is the book available, Lawrence?

For what it's worth, a copy of the book is en route to the Traveler for review. If you want your own copy, it can be had now for $35 from the University of New Mexico Press.

I would still like to know what the results of the Hubbell Management meeting which Mr. Malone attended... It would be interesting to hear about the recommendations made and corrective actions (if any) implimented..... Good to hear about the book.

This important book etches a profile of the banality of evil. At its center is a National Park Service that has lost its moral compass. Corruption eats away at this once venerable institution because supposed guardians of the public interest instead pursue petty advantage and tolerate injustice. Billy Malones story underlines just how vital vigilance is to the survival of a free society.
This is a quote from Jeff Ruch director of PEER. Public employees for Environmental Responsibility

Wow! I read the book and it is fantastic. This is a must read for every NPS employee. It is well written and sourced. The NPS needs to do some house cleaning and reform its leadership. The observations regardng NPS culture in the book are right on. The NPS needs to invest in and reform its leadership model. It is unfortunate, but the currupt and bad faith NPS investigative and management process outlined in this book is not unique to this situation or case. NPS investigators are manipulated by management commonly. The OIG needs to conduct a major review of the NPS special agent and law enforcement program, as well as, how NPS leadership succession is really implemented. This agency is just a shell of its former self.

I noticed a comment about 6,000 pieces of jewelry being "a problem". I strongly disagree and would like to know what you base that opinion on. I bought many items over the years from Bill Malone...he spent time with each customer and kept us coming back for more. He was authentic and had a true committment to the Navajo Nation. If I worked for forty years as a trader, you can bet I'd have more than 6,000 pieces of PRIVATE personal property, also, for my own enjoyment and for an investment. Bill Malone is owed much by the instigators of this criminal "investigation" which never should have taken place. Listen to the people of the Rez and Malone's contemporaries; they know the truth. Hopefully, one day soon, the truth will be publically known and the responsible parties will be made to pay on this one and make Bill Malone whole.

Kurt, have you or anyone heard how the Civil Lawsuit filed by Billy Malone against the principles involved has been resolved or if it has?

my wife and i spent some time in your dad's store in the fall of last year (2011). what i remember most was his respect and sense of fairness toward the native americans who came in the store. i still wear the watch and ring i bought from your dad. there is nowhere in gallup i will shop until i have been to bill malone's first.