By Jennifer Major
To recap my last two posts, the Navajo homeland of Tséyi (Canyon de Chelly) was invaded and lost to Kit Carson's US Army forces in early January, 1884. Prior to this battle, Kit Carson's scorched earth policy was successful in weakening the Navajo in and around their homeland through starvation, and the forced surrender of the majority of Navajo had commenced.
Before, and after, their nation's destruction, many Navajo fled north and west, beyond their canyon into the mountains, or down into the Grand Canyon. Those who couldn't escape people were taken, or surrendered to, various forts in the area and thought they were going to be protected, fed, and treated fairly, as had been promised by the white soldiers and military leaders.
They couldn't possibly know what kind of nightmare lay ahead.
They couldn't possibly know how brutal their suffering would be.
Starting in January of 1864, over 9500 Navajo in over 50 different groups, were marched at gunpoint from the heart of their homeland, across the frigid wintery wastelands of Arizona, over the mountains, and toward a barren patch of scrubby land on the Pecos River in what is now South East New Mexico, known as Fort Sumner, or Bosque Redondo.
From the furthest point, to this new reservation, the various groups of prisoners walked between 375 and 498 miles.
When they finally arrived, they were told to make their own shelters, and many would endure their first nights in the prison camp in shelters like this. Imagine surviving a 400+ mile trek, and this is the "shelter" that greets you, only it's covered in snow and ice?
Hundreds of Navajo died or were stolen along the routes of the Long Walk. Next month, we'll look at the five years in hell that was Bosque Redondo, or as they call it, Hweeldi.
Jennifer Major is a wife to one and a mother to four, and cannot believe her baby is graduating high school next month. She is from Vancouver, but lives on the East Coast where the lobster is cheap and the beach sand is rust-brown. She's only been kicked out of Green Gables once. You can find out more about her at www.jennifermajorbooks.com