Between the summer of 1863 and December 1866 nearly 10,500 Navajos were besieged by U.S. Military troops, led by Col. Christopher “Kit” Carson, starved into submission, forced to surrender, and marched to Bosque Redondo. Over 2,000 Navajos perished on what is known as “The Long Walk” and during their time of incarceration and suffering at Bosque Redondo, until their release in 1868, known as “Hweeldi.”
The Diné (Navajo) are a pastoral society. Their environment is defined by mountains, canyons, sheer sandstone cliffs, and riverbeds. Centuries of living in a rugged, unpredictable environment endowed Navajos with a tenacious instinct for survival. As pastoralists, the need to expand to new horizons increased as sheep herds grew and forage areas decreased. This put them in direct conflict with a more aggressive herding society, the white and Spanish settlers of New Mexico. The Navajos possessed the finest grazing land and mineral-rich areas which the settlers coveted.
Navajo social structure is built around tight family units with a strong family head. They had no concept of living in large communal groups with strangers in a “Pueblo” society as they were forced to do at Bosque Redondo. Traditional Navajo homes called hogans where family units lived were unavailable to them in the strange land of Bosque Redondo where food, wood, and water were scarce, and famine and disease rampant.
It is important to remember the tragic events of the Navajo “Hweeldi”, admire their endurance and courage when all they had was lost, and celebrate their emergence into the Navajo Nation, one of the largest and most prosperous American Indian cultures.
We'll learn more about the Diné in THE HISTORY.
“When men and women talk about Hwéeldi, they say it is something you
cannot really talk about, or they say they would rather not talk about it….
They remember their relatives, families, and friends who were killed by the enemies. They watched them die, and
they suffered with them, so they break into tears and start crying. That is
why we only know segments of stories, pieces here and there. Nobody really knows the whole story about Hwéeldi.”