long gyrus of insula

Long Walk of the Navajo

The Long Walk of the Navajo, also called the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo, was a journey many Navajos made in 1863 to and from a reservation in southeastern New Mexico. The trip lasted about 20 days. Sometimes the "Long Walk" includes all the time the Navajo were away from the land of their ancestors, who had arrived there in the 16th century.

This story is about the long walk to Fort Sumner. There are two points of view regarding it—the White man's and the Navajo's.|25px|25px|Howard W. Gorman, Navajo Stories of the Long Walk Period, page 42.


The traditional Navajo homeland is called, in the Navajo language, Dinétah and included land within the borders of the four sacred mountains, from northeastern Arizona through western Mexico, houses, including Canyon de Chelly, 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 later (1846) the new settlers (Anglo-Americans). Events in the period between 1846 and 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.

Hostilities between the Navajo and Spanish colonists began in the late 1600s. They escalated between the Anglo-Americans and Navajos following the scalping of the respected Navajo leader Narbona in 1849. In August 1851, the U.S. government established [[Fort Defiance (near present-day Window Rock, Arizona) and Fort Wingate (originally Fort Fauntleroy near Gallup, Mexico). The Bonneville Treaty of 1858 reduced the extent of Navajo land. There were also treaties negotiated and signed in 1849, 1858 and 1861, but they all failed There are many examples of serious friction between these groups between 1846 and 1863. They include the murder of a personal servant of Major Brooks, commander of Fort Defiance]], for an alleged rape of a Navajo in July 1858. 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 did not bring in feed for their many animals and took the best grazing land, which was not covered by their treaty. A new treaty was signed around 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 Aug. 9, Lt. Col. Manuel Chaves of the New Mexico Volunteer Militia took command of a garrison of three companies numbering 7 officers and 203 men at Ft. Fauntleroy. Chaves was later accused of being prodigal in dispensing his post's supplies to the 500 or more Navajos that had remained close to the fort, and was remarkably lax in maintaining discipline. Horse races began on Sept. 10 and continued into the late afternoon of Sept. 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 well-armed and mounted Navajo 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 Sept. 25, and he took command. Manuel Chaves, suspended from command, was confined to the limits of Albuquerque pending court martial. Four years later, a Congressional committee investigating the conditions at Ft. Sumner, heard testimony that the Ft. 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 Navajo were killed. The rest scattered and the peace that had been hoped for was impossible.

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 Ft. 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 Dec. 1, Col. Canby wrote to his superior in St. Louis that "there is 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." (McNitt, p. 414-429)

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 campaign 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.

Long Walk

The Long Walks started in January 1863. 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 Hwééldi by the Navajo) in the Pecos River valley. Bosque Redondo means round grove of trees in Spanish language Spanish. At least 200 died along the 300-mile (500 km) trek that took over 18 days to travel by foot. Between 8,000 and 9,000 people were settled on a 40 miles (104 km²) square area, with a peak population of 9,022 by the spring of 1865.

There were actually three groups, taking their own path. 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.

By slow stages we traveled eastward by present Gallup and Chusbbito, Bear Spring, which is now called Fort Wingate. You ask how they treated us? If there was room the soldiers put the women and children on the wagons. Some even let them ride behind them on their horses.

Bosque Redondo

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. Nature and humans both caused crop failures every year. Comanches raided them frequently, and they raided the Comanche, once stealing over 1000 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. In 1868, the experiment—meant to be the first Indian reservation west of Indian Territory—was declared a failure, for some.

Treaty of Bosque Redondo

The Treaty of Bosque Redondo between the United States and many of the Navajo leaders was concluded at Ft. 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 10 years to send their children to school and the US government agreed to establish schools with teachers for every 30 Navajo children. The US government also promised for 10 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).

Return and end of Long Walk

On June 18, 1868, the once-scattered bands of people who called 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 relocated a tribe to their traditional boundaries. The Navajos were granted 3.5 million acres (14,000 km²) of land inside their four sacred mountains. The Navajos 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 Hwééldi 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 Hwééldi say the same." (Navajo Stories of the Long Walk)

See also


  • Bailey, Lynn R. (1970). Bosque Redondo: An American Concentration Camp. Pasadena, California: Socio-Technical Books. (No ISBN).
  • 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. Colorado: Pruett Pub. Co. (No ISBN).
  • McNitt, Frank (1972). Navajo Wars. Colorado: Univ. New Mexico Press. 0-8263-0051-0.
  • Roberts, Susan A., and Calvin A. Roberts (1988). New Mexico. Albuquerque: Univ. New Mexico Press. ISBN 0-8263-1145-8.
  • Thompson, Gerald (1976). The Army and the Navajo: The Bosque Redondo Reservation Experiment 1863-1868. Tucson, Arizona: The University of Arizona Press.
  • Compiled (1973). Navajo Stories of the Long Walk Period. Tsaile, Arizona: Navajo Community College Press. ISBN 0-912586-16-8.

External links

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