Long Walk of the Navajo

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The Long Walk

The Long Walk of the Navajo, also called the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo (Navajo: Hwéeldi), refers to the 1864 deportation of the Navajo people by the government of the United States of America. Navajos were forced to walk up to thirteen miles a day at gunpoint from their reservation in what is now Arizona to eastern New Mexico. Some 53 different forced marches occurred between August 1864 and the end of 1866. Some anthropologists claim that the "collective trauma of the Long Walk...is critical to contemporary Navajos' sense of identity as a people".[1][2]

Introduction[edit]

The traditional Navajo homeland spans from Arizona through western New Mexico, where the Navajo had houses and raised livestock. There was a long historical pattern in the Southwest of groups or bands raiding and trading with each other. This included Navajo, Spanish, Mexican, Apache, Comanche, Ute, and after 1846 the new settlers (Anglo-Americans). Events in the period of 1863 included a cycle of treaties, raids and counter-raids by the Army, the Navajo and a civilian militia, with civilian speculators often on the fringe. Most of the militia involved were longtime enemies of the Navajo, Spanish descendants from northern New Mexico where Spain had established several settlements beginning in the late 16th century.

Hostilities between the Navajo, Hopi and Spanish colonists began at that time.[citation needed] They escalated between the Americans and Navajos following the scalping of the respected Navajo leader Narbona in 1849. In August 1851, Colonel Edwin Vose Sumner established Fort Defiance for the U.S. government(near present-day Window Rock, Arizona) and Fort Wingate (originally Fort Fauntleroy near Gallup, New Mexico). The Bonneville Treaty of 1858 reduced the extent of Navajo land.[citation needed] There were also treaties negotiated and signed in 1849, 1858 and 1861, but they all failed.[citation needed]

There are many examples of friction between these groups between 1846 and 1863. They include the murder of a personal servant of Major Brooks, commander of Fort Defiance, by an arrow in the back on July 12, 1858 for the slaughter of the Navajo livestock on the grazing grounds. There was an attack on Fort Defiance by about 1,000 Navajo warriors under the leadership of Manuelito and Barboncito on April 30, 1860. Navajos were angry that the Army was bringing in troops to wage war, flogged a Navajo messenger, had opened fire on tribal headsman, Agua Chiquito, during talks for peace on January 21. The army had refused to bring in feed for their many animals and took over the grazing land after killing Manuelito's livestock, which was not covered by their treaty.

The army was allowing raiding and stealing of livestock and capture of Navajo tribal members by other tribes and Mexicans resulting in the enslavement of captives. A new treaty was signed about February 15, 1861, to pacify the Navajo, but two of their four sacred mountains were lost to them, as well as about one third of their traditionally held land. In March, a company of 52 citizens led by Jose Manuel Sanchez drove off a bunch of Navajo horses, but Captain Wingate followed the trail and recovered the horses for the Navajo, who had killed Sanchez. Another group of citizens ravaged Navajo rancherias in the vicinity of Beautiful Mountain. Also during this time, a party of Mexicans and Pueblo Indians captured 12 Navajo in a raid, and three were brought in.

On August 9, Lt. Col. Manuel Antonio Chaves of the New Mexico Volunteer Militia took command of a garrison of three companies numbering 8 officers and 206 men at Fort Fauntleroy. Chaves was later accused of being prodigal in dispensing his post's supplies to the 1,000 or more Navajos that had remained close to the fort, and was maintaining remarkably lax discipline. Horse races began on September 10 and continued into the late afternoon of September 13. Col. Chaves permitted Post Sutler A. W. Kavanaugh to supply liquor freely to the Navajos. There was a dispute about which horse won a race. A shot rang out, followed by a fusillade. Almost immediately 200 Navajo, well-armed and mounted, advanced towards the Guard, shooting at the men. They were fired upon by the soldiers, and scattered leaving 12 dead bodies and forty prisoners. On hearing this, Gen. Canby demanded a full report from Chaves, who did not comply. Col. Canby sent Captain Andrew W. Evans to the fort, named Fort Lyon since September 25, and he took command. Manuel Chaves, suspended from command, was confined to the limits of Albuquerque pending court martial. (The charges were dismissed after two months.)

Four years later, a congressional committee investigating the conditions at Fort Sumner, heard testimony that the Fort Fauntleroy episode of the horse race resulted in mountain howitzers being fired at the Indians, resulting in 20 or 30 being killed. A few days later another soldier testified that on the day of the horse race, he saw a soldier murdering two little children and a woman and tried to stop him, but was prevented by a Lt. Ortiz. He also said 12 or 15 Navajos were killed. The rest scattered and the peace that had been hoped for was impossible. In February 1861, Manuel Chaves took the field with 400 men and ransacked Navajo land, basically without federal authority.

With Confederate troops moving into southern New Mexico, Col. Canby sent Agent John Ward into Navajo lands to persuade any who might be friendly to move to a central encampment near the village of Cubero where they would be offered the protection of the government. Ward was also instructed to warn all Navajos who refused to come in that they would be treated as enemies; he was partly successful. Captain Evans was overseeing the abandonment of Fort Lyon and had been told that the new policy would be that the Navajo had to colonize in settlements or pueblos, mentioning the region of the Little Colorado west of Zuni as possibly an ideal place. In November, some Navajo were raiding again. On December 1, Col. Canby wrote to his superior in St. Louis that "recent occurrences in the Navajo country have so demoralized and broken up [the Navajo] nation that there is now no choice between their absolute extermination or their removal and colonization at points so remote...as to isolate them entirely from the inhabitants of the Territory.

Aside from all considerations of humanity the extermination of such a people will be the work of the greatest difficulty".[3] By 1862, the Union Army had pushed the Confederates down the Rio Grande. The United States government again turned its attention to the Navajos, determined to eliminate Navajo raiding and raids on the Navajo.

James H. Carleton was ordered to relieve Canby as the Commander for the New Mexico Military Department in September 1862. Carleton gave the orders to Kit Carson to proceed to Navajo territory and to receive the Navajo surrender on July 20, 1863. When no Navajos showed up, Carson and another officer entered Navajo territory in an attempt to persuade Navajos to surrender, and used a scorched earth policy to starve the Navajo out of their traditional homeland and force them to surrender. He was partly successful by early 1863, when thousands of Navajo began surrendering to the Army. Some Navajos evaded and refused to surrender to the U.S. Army. These groups scattered to Navajo Mountain, the Grand Canyon, the territory of the Chiricahua Apache, and to parts of Utah.

The Long Walk[edit]

Navajo on long walk

Major General James H. Carleton would be assigned to the New Mexico Territory in the fall of 1862, it is then that he would subdue the Navajos of the region and force them on the long walk to Bosque Redondo. Upon being assigned the territory Carleton set boundaries in which the Navajos would not engage in any sort of conflict. They were prohibited from trespassing onto lands, raiding neighboring tribes, and engaging in warfare with both the Spaniards and Americans. A majority of the Navajos abiding these conducts but it was band of Navajo freelancing raiding parties that would break these conducts for which the entire tribe would soon be penalized for.[4] In the eyes of Carleton, he was unsuccessful and would enlist outside resources for aid. General James Carleton would enlist famous Indian Fighter Colonel Christopher "Kit" Carson. "Kit" Carson would be responsible for rounding up the Navajos and organizing the Long Walk that would ensue shortly.

Carson had made a name for himself as a distinguished individual when handling manners with the indigenous population. Carson enlisted the neighboring tribes in aiding his campaign to capture as many Navajos as he could. One tribe that proved to be most useful were the Utes. The Utes were very knowledgable of the lands of the Navajos, and were very familiar with Navajo strongholds as well.[5] "Kit" Carson would launch his full scale assault on the Navajo population in January 1864.[4] He would destroy everything in his path, eradicating the way of life of the Navajo people. Hogans were burned to the ground, livestocks will killed off, and irrigated fields would be destroyed. Navajos who surrendered were taken to Fort Canby and those who resisted were killed. Navajos would be able to escape Carson's campaign but were soon forced to surrender due to starvation and the freezing temperature of the winter months.

The "Long Walk" started in the beginning of spring in 1864. Bands of Navajo led by the Army were relocated from their traditional lands in eastern Arizona Territory and western New Mexico Territory to Fort Sumner (in an area called the Bosque Redondo or Hwéeldi by the Navajo) in the Pecos River valley. (Bosque Redondo is Spanish for "round forest"—in New Mexican Spanish a bosque means a river-bottom forest usually containing cottonwood trees.) The march was one that was very difficult and pushed many Navajos to their breaking point, including death. The distance itself was cruel, but the fact that they did not receive any aid from the soldiers were devastating. Not every single person was in prime condition to trek 300 hundred miles, many began the walk exhausted and malnourished, Others were not properly clothed and were not in the least prepared for such a long journey. Neither sympathy nor remorse were given to the Navajos. They were never informed as to where they were going, why they were being relocated, and how long it would take to get there.[5] One account that was passed through generations within the Navajos that show the attitude of the U.S. Army is as follows:

It was said that those ancestors were on the Long Walk with their daughter, who was pregnant and about to give birth [...] the daughter got tired and weak and couldn't keep up with the others or go further because of her condition. So my ancestors asked the Army to hold up for a while and to let the woman give birth. But the soldiers wouldn't do it. They forced my people to move on, saying that they were getting behind the others. The soldier told the parents that they had to leave their daughters behind. "Your daughter is not going to survive, anyway; sooner or later she is going to die," they said in their own language. "Go ahead," the daughter said to her parents, "things might come out all right with me," But the poor thing was mistaken, my grandparents used to say. not long after they had moved on, they heard a gunshot from where they had been a short time ago.[6]

At least 200 died during the 18-day, 300-mile (500-km) trek. Between 8,000 and 9,000 people were settled on an area of 40 square miles (104 km²), with a peak population of 9,022 by the spring of 1865.

There were actually as many as 50 groups, taking one of seven known routes. They each took a different path but were on the same trail and when returning to the Navajo lands they reformed their group to become one, this group was ten miles (16 km) long.

Bosque Redondo[edit]

Like some internment camps involving several tribes, the Bosque Redondo had serious problems. About 400 Mescalero Apaches were placed there before the Navajos. The Mescaleros and the Navajo had a long tradition of raiding each other; the two tribes had many disputes during their encampment. Furthermore, the initial plan was for around 5,000 people, certainly not 10,000 men, women, and children. Water and firewood were major issues from the start; the water was brackish and the round grove of trees was quite small. Nature and humans both caused crop failures every year. The corn crop was infested with army worms and failed repeatedly. The Pecos River flooded and washed out the head gates of the irrigation system. In 1865 Navajo began leaving. By 1867 the remaining Navajo refused to plant a crop.[7] Comanches raided them frequently, and they raided the Comanche, once stealing over 1,000 horses. The non-Indian settlers also suffered from the raiding parties who were trying to feed their starving people on the Bosque Redondo. And there was inept management of what supplies were purchased for the reservation.The army spent as much as $1.5 million a year to feed the Indians. In 1868 the experiment—meant to be the first Indian reservation west of Indian Territory—was abandoned.

Treaty of Bosque Redondo[edit]

The Treaty of Bosque Redondo between the United States and many of the Navajo leaders was concluded at Fort Sumner on June 1, 1868. Some of the provisions included establishing a reservation, restrictions on raiding, a resident Indian Agent and agency, compulsory education for children, the supply of seeds, agricultural implements and other provisions, rights of the Navajos to be protected, establishment of railroads and forts, compensation to tribal members, and arrangements for the return of Navajos to the reservation established by the treaty. The Navajo agreed for ten years to send their children to school and the U.S. government agreed to establish schools with teachers for every thirty Navajo children. The U.S. government also promised for ten years to make annual deliveries of things the Navajos could not make for themselves.

The signers of the document were: W. T. Sherman (Lt. General), S. F. Tappan (Indian Peace Commissioner), Navajos Barboncito (Chief), Armijo, Delgado, Manuelito, Largo, Herrero, Chiquito, Muerte de Hombre, Hombro, Narbono, Narbono Segundo and Ganado Mucho. Those who attested the document included Theo H. Dodd (Indian Agent) and B. S. Roberts (General 3rd Cav).

Marker where the Treaty of June 1, 1868 was signed

Return and end of Long Walk[edit]

On June 18, 1868, the once-scattered bands of people who call themselves Diné, set off together on the return journey, the "Long Walk" home. This is one of the few instances where the U.S. government permitted a tribe to return to their traditional boundaries. The Navajo were granted 3.5 million acres (14,000 km²) of land inside their four sacred mountains. The Navajo also became a more cohesive tribe after the Long Walk and were able to successfully increase the size of their reservation since then, to over 16 million acres (70,000 km²).

After relating 20 pages of material concerning the Long Walk, Howard Gorman, age 73 at the time, concluded:

"As I have said, our ancestors were taken captive and driven to Hwéeldi for no reason at all. They were harmless people, and, even to date, we are the same, holding no harm for anybody...Many Navajos who know our history and the story of Hwéeldi say the same." (Navajo Stories of the Long Walk Period)[8]

Legacy[edit]

The battles between the American troops and the Navajo natives and factors such as disease and famine reduced the Navajo population of approximately 25,000 to somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 Navajo of reproductive age, creating a genetic bottleneck. This produced the consequence of certain otherwise rare genetic diseases, for example Xeroderma pigmentosum, stemming from recessive genes to present with greater dominance.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Csordas, Thomas J. (February 1999). "Ritual Healing and the Politics of Identity in Contemporary Navajo Society". American Ethnologist (Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological Association) 26 (1): 3–23. doi:10.1525/ae.1999.26.1.3. 
  2. ^ Burnett, John (14 June 2005). "The Navajo Nation's Own 'Trail Of Tears'". NPR All Things Considered. Retrieved 30 July 2012. 
  3. ^ McNitt, Frank (1990). Navajo Wars: Military Campaigns, Slave Raids, and Reprisals. University of New Mexico Press. pp. 428–429. ISBN 9780826312266. 
  4. ^ a b *Cheek, Lawrence W. (2004). The Navajo Long Walk. Tucson: Rio Nuevo Pub. 
  5. ^ a b Iverson, Peter (2002). Diné: A History of the Navajos. Albuquerque: Univ. New Mexico Press. 
  6. ^ Compiled (1973). Roessel, Ruth, ed. Navajo Stories of the Long Walk Period. Tsaile, Arizona: Navajo Community College Press. ISBN 0-912586-16-8. 
  7. ^ Page 168, Kelly, Navajo Roundup
  8. ^ Gorman, Howard (1973). "1864: The Navajo begin ‘Long Walk’ to imprisonment". Native Voices. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 28 January 2013. 
  9. ^ "A Rare Genetic Disorder Is Stalking the Children of the Navajo Nation In POV's 'Sun Kissed,' Premiering Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, on PBS". POV Documentaries with a Point of View. PBS. Retrieved 2014-11-06. 
  • Bailey, Lynn R. (1970). Bosque Redondo: An American Concentration Camp. Pasadena, California: Socio-Technical Books. 
  • Bial, Raymond (2003). Great Journeys: The Long Walk—The Story of Navajo Captivity. New York: Benchmark Books. ISBN 0-7614-1322-7. 
  • Brown, Dee (1970). Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. ISBN 0-330-23219-3. 
  • Kelly, Lawrence (1970). Navajo Roundup: Selected Correspondence of Kit Carson's expedition Against the Navajo, 1863-1865. Colorado: Pruett Publishing Company. ISBN 0-87108-042-7. 
  • McNitt, Frank (1972). Navajo Wars. Colorado: Univ. New Mexico Press. ISBN 0-8263-0051-0. 
  • Roberts, Susan A., and Calvin A. Roberts (1988). New Mexico. Albuquerque: Univ. New Mexico Press. ISBN 0-8263-1145-8. 
  • Simmons, Marc (1973). The Little Lion of the Southwest: a life of Manuel Antonio Chaves. Chicago: The Swallow Press. ISBN 978-0-8040-0633-0. 
  • Thompson, Gerald (1976). The Army and the Navajo: The Bosque Redondo Reservation Experiment 1863-1868. Tucson, Arizona: The University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0-8165-0495-4. 
  • Compiled (1973). Roessel, Ruth, ed. Navajo Stories of the Long Walk Period. Tsaile, Arizona: Navajo Community College Press. ISBN 0-912586-16-8. 
  • Iverson, Peter (2002). Diné: A History of the Navajos. Albuquerque: Univ. New Mexico Press. 
  • Cheek, Lawrence W. (2004). The Navajo Long Walk. Tucson: Rio Nuevo Pub. 
  • The Diné of the Eastern Region of the Navajo Reservation (1990). Oral Stories of the Long Walk. Crownpoint: Lake Valley Navajo School. 

External links[edit]

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