�Indian rolling': White violence against Native Americans in Farmington, New Mexico

Lisa Weber Donaldson
Dept. of Sociology, University of New Mexico
July, 2006


This dissertation examines the problem of violent hate crime against Native Americans in Farmington, New Mexico, a community with a long history of inter-group conflict. By examining this one site over a period of more than 25 years, I show how particular historical conditions led to a social climate that is conducive for some white youth to engage in racially motivated assaults, or 'Indian rolling,' as a recreational pastime. Using a case study design with multiple sources of evidence, including interviews, participant observation, police reports, historical documents, newspaper articles, and government reports, I outline the key factors that are associated with each episode of Indian rolling and typify the crime. Ever since the 'Long Walk' of the 1860's, when thousands of Navajos were forcibly removed from their homelands, there has been mistrust and misunderstanding among whites and Natives in northwestern New Mexico. The discovery of gas and oil in the 1950's brought Anglos from Texas and Oklahoma to the region who had no prior contact with Native cultures. These newcomers were able to establish and maintain control of the economic and political institutions, thereby creating a power differential between groups that led to negative feelings toward minorities among law enforcement and local citizens. The practice of Indian rolling is the consequence of these macro level conditions and has become part of the cultural fabric in the community. This study shows that there is a distinct process in a typical episode of Indian rolling, illustrating Levin and McDevitt's (2002) thrill-seeking hate crime type. Furthermore, this research provides evidence for culpability differences of hate crime offenders. Finally, Navajos in Farmington are targets of violence partly because of their small numbers and relative powerlessness, lending support to the power-differential view of racially motivated violence (Levine and Campbell 1972).
Aside from the scholarly contributions, this research suggests that the leadership in Farmington needs to respond more effectively to hate crimes when they occur and develop a pragmatic policy to improve the social and racial climate of the community.