2017 Japanese Internment Camps

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Nineteenth Century 1800s Forced Relocation Native America

The Navajo Nation's Own 'Trail Of Tears'



It came to be called the Long Walk — in the 1860s, more than 10,000 Navajos and Mescalero Apaches were forcibly marched to a desolate reservation in eastern New Mexico called Bosque Redondo. Nearly one-third of those interned there died of disease, exposure and hunger, held captive by the U.S. Army.

A new memorial center dedicated to remembering the tragedy that almost wiped out the Navajo Nation opened June 4 in New Mexico. The great-great grandsons and granddaughters of the survivors of the Long Walk were there to pay homage, to mourn the dead and celebrate the tribe's ultimate survival.

The Long Walk was largely ignored by a nation embroiled in the Civil War. Beginning in 1863, Gen. James Henry Carleton, commander of New Mexico Territory, decided to solve, once and for all, the "Navajo problem." Some Indians escape the brutal roundup in the Four Corners area, but most surrender.

Ragged queues of defeated Navajos left in batches from Ft. Defiance, Ariz. Men, women, children and the elderly walked 450 miles, in frigid winter and baking summer. Some drowned crossing the Rio Grande. Stragglers were shot and left behind.

Their destination was Fort Sumner and a camp called Bosque Redondo — 40 square miles of shortgrass prairie and thorn desert, bisected by the Pecos River in New Mexico. The Navajo, and a smaller number of Apache, lived in crude shelters improvised from branches and tattered canvas. Pneumonia, dysentery and smallpox devastated their numbers.

After four years at Bosque Redondo, the Army considered it a failed experiment and escorted the survivors back to their homeland — but only after an estimated 2,380 people died. But times have definitely changed: While it was the U.S. Army that almost obliterated the Navajo Nation, it was the Department of Defense that contributed most of the funds to build the Bosque Redondo Memorial.

Related NPR Stories
A Navajo Songwriter's Moving 'Journey'April 17, 2005
Challenges for Disabled Living on Navajo ReservationMarch 17, 2005
Son Honors Father's Service as Code TalkerFeb. 10, 2005
Death Penalty Sentiments on the Navajo ReservationJune 19, 2004
Telemedicine is a Success for NavajosOct. 20, 2003
Commentary: Navajos in TibetOct. 9, 2003
Court Finds Navajos Were Underpaid for Land UseAug. 21, 2003
Navajo WebcastsDec. 12, 2002
Exploring What It Means to Be Native AmericanSept. 20, 2004
Running the 121-Mile Apache Relay in ArizonaAug. 27, 2004
Native Languages and 'No Child Left Behind'April 23, 2004

Web Resources
More on Bosque Redondo and the Fort Sumner State Monument at NMMonuments.org