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Indigenous Voices of the Colorado Plateau

The Long Walk

 Indigenous Voices




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     The Long Walk
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 White Mountain Apache

Save the Peaks!

 Merriam Report


Hweeldi' was the name given to Ft. Sumner/Bosque Redondo area of New Mexico. This Navajo place name is the name of the place where the Navajos were held in captivity from 1864-1868 by the United States Cavalry.

General James Henry Carleton was the head of the forced relocation operation. His view was that in the name of Manifest Destiny he would take Navajo from their homeland and put them on reservations. General Carlton believed in the idea of Manifest Destiny -- "the belief that the United States was destined to conquer all of North America". Carlton's particular Manifest Destiny view included relocating indigenous peoples away from their ancestral homelands. He believed that this would give indigenous peoples the opportunity to learn reading, writing, and accept Christianity. With this assimilation into the Anglo world, they would then become happy and contented people with no further desire to make war on the Anglos.

Colonial Christopher "Kit" Carson was given the task of breaking the Navajo resistance. He was sympathetic to the Navajo. During his life Carson had married two indigenous women and adopted indigenous children. His overriding sense of military duty won out, however, regardless of his feeling for Native Americans, and he ruthlessly attacked the Navajo people with his cavalry units, burning Navajo cornfields and poisoning water sources.

In 1864 the United States military forced 11,468 Navajos from Fort Canby, Arizona (known today as Fort Defiance) to walk more than 300 miles to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. The weaker people who could not keep up pace with the military were either left to die or were shot. Several hundred Navajo died on this forced march. More Navajo died at Bosque Redondo--close to 2000.

The water from the Pecos River near Bosque Redondo, used by the Navajo in everyday life, was contaminated. The water caused intestinal problems for the captives. Disease was rampant, and armyworm destroyed their corn crops. Wood, provided by cottonwood trees, became scarce because of the demands placed on this resource, used for cooking and keeping warm.

Finally, in 1868, the U. S. Government released the Navajo, allowing them to return to some of their ancestral homelands. A Treaty was signed in 1868 that permitted the Navajo to move back on a small parcel of land totaling approximately 3.5 million acres. This parcel did include part of the original ancestral Navajo land.

The Navajo Long Walk by Lawrence W. Cheek. Look West Series. Tucson, Arizona: Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2004: p. 13.


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