The Navajo Long Walk (Look West Series)by Lawrence W. Cheek
The disaster began in 1863 when Gen. James Henry Carleton decided to move the Navajo people forcibly from their traditional Arizona homeland to a reservation on the high plains of northern New Mexico. He/i>
"The Navajo Holocaust" is what Lawrence W. Cheek calls it in this volume of the Look West series. In Navajo history it is commonly known as the Long Walk.
The disaster began in 1863 when Gen. James Henry Carleton decided to move the Navajo people forcibly from their traditional Arizona homeland to a reservation on the high plains of northern New Mexico. He assigned this job to a veteran soldier named Kit Carson, who broke Navajo resistance with a series of military raids. Then the remaining Navajo were herded in large groups across distances of 300 to 500 miles (routes varied) to a small camp at Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Winter was coming on.
"By the best estimate now possible 1,500 to 3,000 peopleup to a fifth of the Navajo population at the timedied either en route or in what amounted to a concentration camp," writes Cheek. "It became known as the Long Walkthe Southwestern counterpart to the Cherokees' Trail of Tears."
More than 8,000 Navajos attempted to live at the 40 by 40-mile camp. By 1868 the experiment had clearly failed. Many Navajos had starved to death. Their chief Barboncito made a plea to Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, who by now had inherited the problem: "I hope to God you will not ask me to go to any other country except my own." Sherman relented, and the survivors were finally allowed to go home.
And yet, as Cheek observes in a riveting, terrible, beautifully written account, this tragic episode "preserved Navajo identity instead of destroying it."
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