Nathan's Family History & Background

Nathan’s Grandpa Martinez was born in south Texas. He joined the Army as a teenager and was deployed to Italy immediately after World Word 2, where he met and married Nathan’s grandmother in Trieste, which is in the north near the border of what is today Slovenia. Grandma vividly remembers life under Mussolini and Nazi Germany, and her tales of stealing coal from freight trains, hiding from German soldiers and eating rabbits fascinated the Martinez siblings in their youth.

Grandpa Martinez was a remarkable individual – he spoke fluent English, Spanish and Italian, in addition to other languages. He was highly intelligent, an agonstic libertarian, and commanded a prolific knowledge of history. He ultimately rose to the rank of Command Sergeant Major, the highest rank possible for an enlisted man, fought in Vietnam and survived being shot down near Laos. All of his four children followed him into military service of one form or another.

Nathan’s surname, Martinez, has a fascinating and still mysterious history. Some of the males in the family have done genetic testing, and their Y chromosome belongs to a haplogroup most commonly found in North Africa. The first Martinez in their oral history lived in Barcelona, Spain sometime during the 1800’s. After his family died due to an unspecified illness, he went to live with relatives, who abused him. The story goes that he threw a rock at one of them (perhaps killing him), and stowed away on a merchant sailing ship where he was eventually adopted by the captain. His sailing adventures brought him to the port city of Galveston, Texas, where he married into the Tejano side of the family.

Many of Grandpa Martinez’s ancestors where Tejanos of Portuguese, Spanish, unspecified indigenous and Sephardic Jewish ancestry who had moved back and forth across northern Mexico and south Texas for centuries (the Ballis, Villareals and Hinajosas among others). However, his mother’s family were recent immigrants from the semi-assimilated indigenous cultures of the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. They were most likely Guachichil, one of the largest Chichimeca groups of hunter-gatherers. From this side of the family, the traditions of harvesting wild plants like nopal (prickly pear) and cooking with hot rocks in earth pits (barbacoa) were passed on unbroken.

Nathan’s mother’s ancestors were early northern and western European immigrants to the Americas – Scots-Irish, German, British and Norwegian, almost all of whom arrived in either Virginia or Pennsylvania in the 1600’s. The families were primarily subsistence farmers and laborers, and slowly migrated south and west. By the 1800’s, most of them were living in Alabama, Tennessee or Kentucky. In one family alone, 6 brothers fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. By the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, the majority of Nathan's mother’s ancestors were living in Texas in rural areas near Dallas.

Nathan grew up in a large family on rural land in Colorado and Texas, and along with his siblings, was homeschooled until age 18. He developed an early interest in living off the land after hearing the stories of relatives from south Texas and northern Mexico who utilized wild edible plants and cooked meat in underground pits. Around the same time, he also became fascinated by languages and studied Spanish, Chinese,classical Nahuatl and archaic Hebrew. When not studying, Nathan spent all of his time observing beetles, spiders, ants, birds, squirrels, deer and feral cats. He was not content merely observing nature -- he wanted more than anything to become part of it. 

In his late teens, Nathan readily devoured academic literature on gorillas, chimpanzees and early humans. In college he studied Near Eastern archaeology and history, anthropology, sociology and linguistics and spent his free time replicating hunter-gatherer artifacts, observing captive chimpanzees and reading every ethnography he could get his hands on. In the library, he discovered that he could absorb knowledge at a far greater rate than in the classroom -- and for free. During this time, he discovered the writings of Daniel Quinn and John Zerzan, but quickly realized that their romantic views and impractical solutions were illogical and not substantiated by comparative ethology or the archaeological record. 

At age 19, Nathan spent part of the summer with several First Nations in the Canadian Pacific Northwest -- gathering berries by the bushel and travelling out to sea fishing with other teenagers in very dangerous little boats. After the experience, he knew that he wanted to spend the rest of his life living off the land and sea -- with a large extended family if possible. 

After returning to Texas, Nathan worked as a librarian and manual laborer before finding a job as an experimental archaeological instructor at a remote desert field school, where he instructed students of all ages in primitive technology and optimal foraging theory. He also had access to a large ranch and began subsisting for weeks at a time exclusively on wild game that he hunted and trapped. In between teaching seasons, he traveled from Alaska to the Amazon to test the foraging potential of a diverse number of bioregions and served as a consultant and trainer for prominent internationally televised survival programs. 

He continues to contemplate the interplay between language and society and conducted extensive personal research in the fields of memetics, neurolinguistics, neuromorphic computing, paleoanthropology, primatology and comparative ethology.