It became obvious to government officials that the Bosque Redondo Indian Reservation was a failure. In June of 1865, a Joint Special Committee, called the Doolittle Committee, visited the reservation to investigate conditions. They met with the leaders of the Navajo and listened for the first time as the captives explained “their wishes and problems facing their people.”
The issue of Bosque Redondo was debated in Congress, and no action was taken immediately. While the politicians in Washington debated, the Navajos contined to suffer and die at Fort Sumner. Finally, on February 25, 1867, General James Carleton was removed from command and ordered to report to duty with his regimen in Texas.
In the spring of 1868, General William T. Sherman and Colonel Samuel F. Tappan arrived at Fort Sumner to negotiate a new treaty with the Navajo leaders, led by Chief Barboncito, the last Navajo Chief to surrender in 1866.
During negotiations, Chief Barboncito stated, “The bringing of us here has caused a great decrease in our numbers. Many of us have died, also a great number of our animals. Our grandfathers had no idea of living in any other country except our own and I do not think it is right for us to do so.”
The Treaty of 1868 was signed in a field between the Fort and the Memorial. By definition, a treaty can only be signed by two nations. Thus, the Treaty of 1868 established, under Federal Law, the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation.
The Navajo were allowed to return to their original homelands in the Four Corners Region.
One hundred years later, in February of 1971, Navajos from different parts of the Navajo reservation gathered and brought rocks from their homes to commemorate their ancestors who suffered and died at Bosque Redondo. This marker at the Memorial has a great feeling of sacredness.
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“Cage the badger and he will try to break from his prison and regain his native hole. Chain an eagle to the ground and he will strive to gain his freedom, and though he fails, he will lift his head and look up to the sky which is home... and we want to return to our mountains and plains, where we used to plant corn, wheat, and beans.”
—Navajo quote, 1865, by the Navojo Commemorative rock marker