Thomas Weaver

2009 Bronislaw Malinowski Award Recipient


malinowski_weaver.jpgProf. Weaver grew up in Northeastern New Mexico a few miles from the Texas border.  This part of the state is an expansion of the Texas Panhandle plains with its small ranching towns extending westward into rolling hills, volcanic terrains, and mesas, and gaining elevation less than 100 miles away from the Rocky Mountains.  Weaver was born in Greenville, New Mexico into a family of ranchers, farmers, and sheep men, who in the late 1800s had become cowboys, railroad builders, and in the 1930s builders of the economy and society of these small towns.

Weaver’s ancestors were explorers and settlers of the Southwest, coming first in the 1500s as descendants of Spaniards mixed with other ethnicities.  There were also Mountain Men hunters of buffalo, bears, and beaver wintering in Taos.  There were men escaping the aftermath of the Civil War, explorers of the Rocky Mountains and the West, Americans looking for adventure, for new homes.  Planning to go West, they instead fell in love with the land and the women, settled and became some of his ancestors.  

Before World War II Weaver’s father moved them to Dalhart, Texas from Clayton, New Mexico and then to Raton at the foot of the Rockies.  Here Weaver went to high school where he played football, ran track, was in the Drama Club, became an Eagle Scout, and joined the National Guard, becoming a master sergeant and captain after going to officers school in Fort Bliss.  Meanwhile, he married Dora Martinez from Raton.  Then he went to the University of New Mexico for bachelors and masters degrees, and to the University of California at Berkeley for a PhD.

After Weaver’s teaching assistantship ran out at Berkeley and before he received his Ph.D., he became executive secretary of the California Commission of Indian Affairs and wrote his first monograph on the social and economic problems of California Indians.  His first teaching jobs were in medical schools in Lexington, Kentucky and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania after which in 1969 he joined anthropology at Arizona as director of the Bureau of Ethnic Research (later renamed the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology).  This was after he had relinquished the directorship for a professorship in the department of anthropology.

The most memorable research at Arizona was with American Indians in economic and political research, border studies, a bi-national team study of Mexican migration, and the Tarahumara of Chihuahua, Mexico. Also memorable was the economic and political organization of the Gila River Indian Community in a study that provided background information for their work in developing their economy, later including industrial parks, a recreational lake, casinos, and hotels.  Another was the first border town study of Douglas and of Nogales, Arizona, and of the Pyramid Lake Paiute in Nevada. Out of this work came monographs and books on urban anthropology, Indians of Arizona, social issues in the United States (To See Ourselves), Indians of the Greater Southwest (in Spanish), and much later edited books on the Anthropology of Hispanic Cultures in the United States and on Malinowski.

Weaver continued the inquisitive and questioning bent of his ancestors and has enjoyed exploring new lands in Mexico (Indians, migration, forestry, and economic development), Peru, Chile, Argentina (the last two on biodiversity and medical anthropology), Spain (border studies in Extremadura and the Basque country), and as a tourist in Europe, Canada, and the United States while attending professional meetings or chasing grants.

Since his retirement, Weaver has co-edited a book on Neo-liberalism and Commodity Production in Mexico, is at work on a book on the Ecology of Globalization, an interdisciplinary project on the impact of Tuberculosis on indigenous undocumented workers in Sonora and Arizona, and has returned to writing poetry, which is a lifelong passion.