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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Navajo: The Long Walk

By Kristy McCaffrey

The "Long Walk" was the incarceration of the Navajo Indians at Bosque Redondo—near Ft. Sumner in New Mexico Territory—from 1864 to 1868, after which they were released and allowed to return to their lands in northern Arizona Territory.
James H. Carleton

In 1862, Colonel James H. Carleton asserted the authority of the Federal government within the Arizona territory. He designated himself military governor, contending that Arizona was in a chaotic state with no civil officers to protect life and property. He acted swiftly and harshly against Confederate sympathizers as well as desperadoes. Soon promoted to Brigadier General, Carleton spent the next four years attempting to subdue the Indians of New Mexico and Arizona. Practicing a policy of extermination, he felt that the lines of communication to the increasingly valuable west coast needed to remain open. This mostly affected the Apache Indians in southern Arizona.

Because of the treachery of both the military and the Apache, no one could be trusted, and extermination and ejection from the land was practiced on both sides.
Kit Carson

During this time, the Navajo became more aggressive, believing they were defeating the white man because of troop removal to aid the Civil War in the east. In 1863, Colonel Kit Carson was appointed by General Carleton to organize an expedition against them. Carleton notified the Indians that they had until July 20, 1863, to surrender and go to the Bosque Redondo Reservation in New Mexico. If they refused, every Navajo male capable of bearing arms was to be killed. The Navajo didn't take the threat seriously.

With 700 troops at his command—along with Ute Indian scouts who were eager to fight their enemy, the Navajo, and were highly effective in tracking them—they managed to kill or force into surrender all Navajo outside of their stronghold, Canyon de Chelly. A small number managed to escape and flee south. All means of livelihood for the Navajo were destroyed—cornfields torn up, and thousands of sheep slaughtered, left to rot in piles. Carson managed to break the spirit of the Navajo. So began "the Long Walk."
Canyon de Chelly, Arizona
The Long Walk wasn't a single event. From 1863 until 1866, well over 50 treks took place from northern Arizona to Fort Sumner in New Mexico. Sometimes there were just a handful of individuals, other times there were hundreds. The trip took several different routes, beginning in the Fort Wingate area (New Mexico), heading toward Albuquerque, and then branching south to the Bosque. If the Navajo survived the journey, they faced utter desolation at the Bosque. It was flat, barren, and the nearby water in the river alkaline.
The Long Walk
They were incarcerated with Mescalero Apaches, an old enemy, leading to inevitable clashes. They also suffered repeated attacks from the Comanche. The soil was unproductive and couldn't support them, forcing the government to provide them with rations. A smallpox epidemic further demoralized the Navajo in 1865, costing more than 2,000 lives.

In a rare move, the War Department concluded that the Navajo could not be self-sustaining on the Bosque. In 1868, the Navajo were permitted to return to a defined portion of their homeland, and they were provided with liberal federal assistance to help them gain their footing again.

The Long Walk inflicted enormous suffering and trauma on the Navajo, and is still spoken of today. But it also focused the spirit, dedication, and loyalty that the Navajo have to their lands and their culture. Today, they are the largest federally recognized Native American tribe in the United States.

The Crow and the Coyote
Now available in Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico Vol. 2

Among the red-rock canyons of the Navajo, Bounty Hunter Jack Boggs aids Hannah Dobbin in a quest to save her pa's soul.

 What better way to spend Halloween than with some handsome cowboys and feisty heroines who are determined to fall in love despite their supernatural powers—or lack thereof. Halloween's a good time to take a chance on love—and to see what these Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico Vol. 2 stories might reveal to the unsuspecting reader—YOU!

Cheryl Pierson's Spellbound will have you on the edge of your seat as safecracker Brett Diamond and witch Angie Colton take on a border gang leader who is pure evil. Can Angie's supernatural powers save them? No matter what, Brett and Angie are hopelessly spellbound.

C. Marie Bowen's Hunter and Lily Graham is an unforgettable tale of a beautiful school marm's love for her children that surpasses all. When a Cajun bounty hunter known only as "Hunter" shows up, Lily knows he, and no one else, can help her save a young girl.

Have Wand—Will Travel is Jacquie Roger's offering about a handsome young mage, Tremaine Ramsey, who has a wand and knows how to use it...sometimes. Will his magic be strong enough to pull off a daring rescue of his father from the evil Gharth? Or will he need the warrior Nora's love to help him see his Fate through?

Will Kaye Spencer's character, Mercy Pontiere, be able to break a centuries-old curse and find true love all at the same time? It all depends on Reid Corvane and what he'll do For Love of a Brystile Witch.

In Kristy McCaffrey's story, The Crow and the Coyote, Hannah Dobbin is after an evil Navajo sorcerer who murdered her father, and she's determined to see him dead. But she'll need a bounty hunter—The Crow—to help find this vile man. With Hallowtide upon them, more evil is afoot than they can handle; but love will find a way.

A failed bank robber, Tombstone Hawkins, along with a fake gypsy fortune teller, Pansy Gilchrist, set out to make both their deceased fathers proud in one final spectacular heist. Family Tradition is Kathleen Rice Adam's tale of the discovery of true love amid the commission of a crime—or the failure to commit a crime—while being overseen by the ghosts of the couple's fathers. How can there be a happy ending? It's Halloween, and anything can happen!


  1. A very good post. The social and psychological ramification of those events are still being studied today.

    Such a diverse and interesting set of stories. So happy for all the authors. Something fun for everyone. Doris

    1. Doris,
      You're right about the impact still being felt today. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. The Long Walk at least turned out a little better for the Navajo that The Trail of Tears turned out for the Cherokee. What a shameful, arrogant attitude white men had toward the American Indians. Great research, Kristy. Congratulations on the release of The Crow and The Coyote in the anthology, COWBOYS, CREATURES AND CALICO, Volume 2.
    All good things to your corner of the universe, Kristy.

    1. Thank you, Sarah!! The sad thing is, like altercations that occur everywhere in the world, there were depredations on both sides. No one was really innocent, Indians or the military, except maybe the men, women and children simply trying to survive on the sidelines. However, the idea of reservations was a horrible one, if you ask me. The U.S. Government tried to round up these people and contain them like dogs. No one should have to live that way.

  3. Fascinating post, Kristy. It's so sad the history of the West is filled with so many misunderstandings (on both sides, we often tend to forget there was good and bad in both camps) that transformed into suffering. I do find it interesting in the Navajos' case that the government realized the distress of the people and actually took some action to relieve it by allowing them to return to a portion of their land.

    1. Kirsten,
      It is interesting. Several things came into play--Navajo leaders traveled to Washington to state their case, the government realized that Bosque Redondo wasn't working, etc. Still, it's surprising they released them, considering the treatment of other tribes.

    2. Kristy,

      Back in my teaching days, a book that I made sure my students read before they graduated was Scott O'Dell's "Sing Down the Moon". While it isn't a study, so-to-speak, of the Long Walk itself, it does give the reader a good feel of the historical events (in a general way) of what the Native Americans endured. The story novella length and it serves as a good starting place for further research.

    3. Thanks for the heads up, Kaye. I've not read that book. Will have to add it to my TBR pile. :-)