Gallup, New Mexico: Family History by Roland Kamps

Introduction

Gallup, New Mexico has a fascinating history with the Navajo, Zuni, & Hopi peoples. It is a trading center for all three of these Native American Reservations. Many families which were early settlers in this area are still here today. The Kamps family is one of these with a rich local history. This family has done mission work, healed the sick and delivered many new Gallupians, and taught generations of children. Roland Kamps was my teacher for 8th Grade History. He came into the Trading Post to show Perry some rugs his father had owned, and he wanted to sell.

Perry Null Trading:

What brought the Kamps family to Gallup, New Mexico?

Roland Kamps:

My father, Jacob R., came here in 1927. He was a Minister for the Christian Reform Church and they had a Mission at Rehoboth, right outside of Gallup.

Perry Null Trading:

Did your father want to come to this area?

Roland Kamps:

He came from a time when being a Minister of God was a very prestigious calling. He was one of those Godly men who taught God’s word and let that take him where he needed to be. (Laughs) I was conceived in China, born in Michigan, and raised in Gallup, New Mexico. So you can see he was willing to go where needed.

Perry Null Trading:

Did your father have to learn to speak Navajo to do his Mission work?

Roland Kamps:

When he first arrived he took learning Navajo very seriously. He would become fluent in the Navajo language, but would never use it in a sermon. Before he learned he had a interpreter, Wallace Peshlakai, that would travel with him on the Navajo Reservation.

Roland Kamps rug collection

Gallup, New Mexico Roland Kamps rug collection
 
Perry Null Trading:

Did he teach you to speak Navajo, or did you learn another way to speak the language?

Roland Kamps:

Dad always wanted all of us kids to speak Navajo (laughs), but all I ever learned was the dirty words.

Perry Null Trading:

Did your Father ever do any trading with the Navajo?

Roland Kamps:

No, but he would always come home with rugs, baskets, and pottery he purchased to help a family out. This would make my mom so made because she said she needed the money to feed us kids. After my parents passed away we went through their things and came across a big steamer truck. That truck was filled to the top with Navajo rugs, probably somewhere around 25 to 50.

Perry Null Trading:

How many brothers and sisters do you have?

Roland Kamps:

All brothers, there are seven of us. I had my two youngest brothers in class at Rehoboth.

Perry Null Trading:

How long did you teach at Rehoboth?

Roland Kamps:

I started teaching at Rehoboth in 1949. You had to teach everything back then, so I remember having english, math, and history classes. Eventually, I became the Superintendent before leaving in 1966 for Zuni.

Perry Null Trading:

Do you remember any of the early Indian Traders?

Roland Kamps:

I had a men’s basketball team and played with Tobe Turpen Jr. and we would play against the Ortega Brothers. Also, Rico Menapace played on my team. He had the car dealership in town and that guy was what I think of as a Trader. He could speak Navajo fluently and would take whatever was offered for trade, sheep, cattle, rugs, anything of value. We called his truck the Navajo Cadillac because everyone on the Reservation was driving one.

Perry Null Trading:

So, I grew up familiar with the Kamps name, is their a younger generation still here in Gallup?

Roland Kamps:

Yes, Gallup will have Kamps people, hopefully forever.

Perry Null Trading:

So what do you think your Father paid for that large rug you brought in today?

Roland Kamps:

(Laughs) I know nothing close to the thousands it is worth today, maybe a couple of hundred at most.

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